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Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. Email address:. Please provide an email address. Category: Adventure , Arabic , French.
In Islam there are 99 names for God, this book is said to reveal a secret and sacred one hundredth name that offers salvation from the apocalyptic year , also known as the year of the beast. Set in the 17th century in Europe and the Levant Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan during the Ottoman Empire, the novel follows Balthasar Embriaco, a Genoese book and antiques dealer living in the town of Gibelet Jbeil in Lebanon , along with his two nephews Jaber and Habib and his newfound love Marta. Balthasar travels with his two nephews to Constantinople where he reunites with a woman he once knew, Marta, who later becomes his love interest.
The quest to recover the book turns into a labyrinthine effort to protect Balthasar's newfound love, a woman named Marta, who is on a quest of her own to find news of her long-lost husband. Balthasar is crushed when Marta reunites with her mate, but he travels on to London, where he finally locates the tome—only to discover that his health deteriorates every time he tries to translate it.
Maalouf's initial conceit is promising, but too many of the plot twists turn into tangents, and the nebulous resolution of both subplots further dilutes the overall impact. Despite the narrative flaws, however, Maalouf has considerable success using cultural details to create an authentic atmosphere, and the novel effectively captures the flavor and spirit of 17th-century Europe.
Forecast: A striking period jacket will entice browsers, but the 20,copy first printing of this sluggishly paced novel may take some time to sell through. View Full Version of PW.
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