The Mistress of Abha

William Newton, Bloomsbury, $16 paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-60819-321-9
The late Newton's wan second novel (after The Two Pound Tram) combines adventure and the rise of Abdulaziz ibn Saud in prose as dry as sand. After accompanying Lawrence of Arabia in a campaign against the Turks, Robert Willoughby returns to 1918 England for a few days with his adolescent son, Ivor, before taking off and never being heard from again. Ten years later, Ivor embarks on a quest to Arabia to find out what happened to his father, and, soon after arriving in Abha, Ivor hears tales about a legendary ex-slave turned female warrior named Na'ema who may have a connection to his father. Ivor then travels to the seaport of Hali, and from there to the desert oasis of Khurma, where he spends several days in the company of Ferdhan bin Murzak, a prosperous slave trader who sends him on yet another quest toward discovering what happened to Robert. Unfortunately, the mystery's resolution is simultaneously tepid, melodramatic, and unsurprising. The glacially paced adventure is done in by colonial stereotypes, a narrator who stumbles forward without much volition or reflection, and overly stodgy language. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/19/2010
Release date: 08/01/2010
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 424 pages - 978-0-7531-8725-8
Hardcover - 416 pages - 978-0-7531-8724-1
Open Ebook - 978-1-60819-361-5
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