Written In The Ashes - K. Hollan VanZandt BEFORE READING:

This book is currently available for $2.29 in Kindle format at Amazon. At this price and having checked the sample, I figured why not try it. Hypatia and the Alexandria library - the subject matter is interesting.

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ON COMPLETION:

I have the hardest time writing reviews for those books that neither anger me because they are so terrible nor excite me because they are so wonderful. This is such a book.

I wanted to learn more about the life of Hypatia, the famed woman astronomer, philosopher and mathematician who lived at the turn of the 5th Century CE. I wanted to learn more about the Library of Alexandria and the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismagistus. However, after reading this book, I feel I could have gotten the same from a rapid search at Wikipedia. In fact I did feel compelled to read at Wikipedia anyhow. There are today so many unsolved questions. The author has done an admiral job of offering us one possible explanation detailing Hypatia’s death and the circumstances of the burning of the library. In an epilog she has explained where she has altered known facts, willfully allowed anachronisms and specified the unknowns. I cannot criticize that. It is just that I simply didn’t learn enough. This book is a dramatization of one possible scenario.

So let’s look at the manner of dramatization. I believe a primary problem for me is that the tone of the novel is too cinematic. Many people enjoy plot oriented books with dramatic turns and bravado behavior. This is a book for them. I think it is totally corny when in the heat of the fire a character throws a shard of emerald and, whamo, kills the bad guy…….

This felt like fiction to me. Given the acknowledged known facts, how can these be puzzled together to make sense? This is how the author has approached the subject matter. This is in fact logical, but it becomes “too cleaned up”, too simple. This event has to happen so that event can happen. A message is to be delivered so the characters do this or that so the message can be given. True life is so much messier and complex. In this novel, a repentant bishop is just too “sweet” for my tastes, but you see the author wants to make a particular statement that will please her readers or her own beliefs. We know that Bishop Cyril did exist, although some events remain unclear. The author has chosen one very plausible alternative to profess her point of view and to achieve a moving story. In addition, there is clear forewarning of coming events. I appreciate more subtlety.

The author employs a few writing gimmicks, for example, the repetitive use of a one word sentence: “So.” The reader is supposed to stop and pause and think and then go on. It is just that it was used repetitively.

The author imagines one character who has a wonderful view of religion based on kindness, compassion and understanding. This character states that he follows all religious beliefs not limiting himself to just one. A person of any faith will nod and say: THIS is what religion should be about. I too thought the lines beautifully expressed how religion should be manifested. THIS is what we must seek. Pretty lines that I guarantee all will love……..but again, a bit obvious. On a Kindle you can see the number of people who have marked a particular passage. Yup, everyone loved these lines. No one could hate them.

For me this book was good, but I wanted a lot more. I want more nuances. I wanted more complicated people. I wanted more answers. Unfortunately we do not today have all the answers. That is certainly not the author’s fault, but we have to decide if we want to spend time on the book.

This book is the first of the planned Mediterranean Trilogy. It is optioned for television. Many people will enjoy the cinematic feel. If you are curious for more, visit www.WrittenInTheAshes.com/Hannah