Howard Andrew Jones’ debut novel The Desert of Souls was one of my favorite novels of 2011. The Bones of the Old Ones , released just this January , takes up bare months after the first novel left off. Asim and Dabir have taken up positions in the city of Mosul and as an uncanny cold grips the desert city the two long time friends find themselves called to action once more this time to aid the mysterious Najya; a woman hunted by a cabal of ancient sorcerer-assassins. The Bones of the Old Ones, even more than in Jones’ first novel, is a pure and unadulterated Swords and Sorcery novel.
Featuring mysterious magicians, a beautiful woman in danger, and two very human yet extraordinarily capable heroes The Bones of the Old One rockets forth at breakneck pace barely pausing for a breath as our two hero manage to stay a hairsbreadth ahead of the villains. Whereas the first novel saw Jones taking time to introduce our Asim and Dabir he all but disposes of that formality here spending what felt like a very brief chapter reacquainting readers with the two protagonists before thrusting them into danger.
At the same time Jones also delves into the history of both Dabir and Asim. For Asim this comes by way via the mysterious damsel-in-distress Najya whose quiet strength, and capable nature (not to mention great beauty) attract the stoic Asim. Through this attraction we learn a little about Asim’s past love life, just enough to provide readers with a reason behind his hesitance when it comes to his feelings for Najya. Asim isn’t the only character whose past we get to visit, Dabir revisits his own past he contact his former mentor Jibril. Both offer insight into the makeup of each character while at the same time keep the novel focused on the plot.
As in the previous volume the narrative is experience from Asim’s point of view. It is an interesting choice for narration offering a one-sided means of interpreting thought, emotion, and action. Everything that happens is relayed through the filter of Asim’s perspective and Jones does a remarkable job of staying true to his rather limited point of view. I can only imagine how frustrating it must have gotten at some points wanting to portray things that didn’t happen in front of Asim or finding ways to have Asim relay things that didn’t happen directly to them. In the end I think the strict adherence to Asim’s point of view is not only part of the novel’s charm but also plays a strong part in keeping the action fast and plot tight.
The Bones of the Old Ones was a pleasure to read. Jones crafts a taught action-packed story that never suffers as a result of its pace. Dabir and Asim are well-crafted vibrant character with distinct personalities and attitudes that together create an effective and well-rounded partnership. The Desert of Souls was an excellent first novel and, while I didn’t think it possible, The Bones of the Old Ones manages to take a similar approach and make it even faster and more thrilling than its predecessor. I’ll definitely be on the lookout from more adventures with Dabir and Asim and I recommend all fans of adventure laden fantasy give Howard Andrew Jones a try.