Written In the Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zandt
Publisher: Harper Collins (Sept. 27, 2016
Category: Historical Fiction,
Tour Dates: October/November, 2016
Available in: ebook, 554Pages
“Written in the Ashes is one of those rare novels that sets ‘history’ afire, to bathe readers in the glow of a greater, hotter truth. Fans of The Mists of Avalon will find this romantic/alchemical/feminist/spiritual epic equally captivating.”—Tom Robbins, bestselling author of Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. and Villa Incognito
In the bloody clash between Christians and pagans in fifth-century Alexandria, a servant girl becomes the last hope for preserving peace in this evocative and thrilling tale—a blend of history, adventure, religion, romance, and mysticism reminiscent of The Mists of Avalon.
After she is abducted from her home in the mountains of Sinai, Hannah is enslaved and taken to Alexandria, where she becomes the property of Alizar, an alchemist and pagan secretly working to preserve his culture. Revered for her beautiful singing voice, the young slave is invited to perform at the city’s Great Library, where she becomes friends with the revered mathematician and philosopher, Hypatia, as well as other pagans who curate its magnificent collections. Determined to help them uphold pagan culture and traditions, Hannah embarks on a dangerous quest to unite the fractured pieces of the Emerald Tablet—the last hope to save the pagans and create peace.
On this odyssey that leads her to the lost oracles of Delfi and Amun-Ra and to rediscovered ancient cities and rituals, Hannah will experience forbidden loves, painful betrayals, and poignant reunions. But her efforts may be in vain. Returning to Alexandria, Hannah finds a city engulfed in violence, even as her own romantic entanglements come to a head. Now, it’s not only her future, but the fate of all Alexandria that is at stake.
This excerpt is continued from The Musings of a Book Junkie on Oct 27th.
“Thank you, Alizar. Your words give me courage.” Hannah smiled as a flock of gold songbirds swooped over her head.
Alizar walked to the ledge, thinking to himself how all his life he had been one of those loquacious little fifes jabbering on and on about things that no one else bothered to consider. For a moment, he felt an ache of longing in his heart for the privacy of his tower, where the muse permitted him endless hours of uninterrupted contemplation and creation. This was something that Alizar had never been able to reconcile: when high in his tower, creating and inventing, he longed for adventure and the world; and when out in the world, he pined for his little tower and the universes it contained. He was nothing to himself if not this endless wheel of contradictions.
As the sun approached its zenith in the sky, the otiose caravan sought shade around the temple to escape the blaring heat. Without much else to do, they fell asleep. Late in the afternoon they awakened from their naps to devour the remainder of Jemir’s bannocks. As they argued about how long to keep waiting, a tall Egyptian in ceremonial regalia appeared beneath a slim archway in the outer wall. “The Oracle of Amun-Ra will see you now,” he said with a formal nod.
Hannah was the first to fly to her feet.
The stoic Egyptian led them through a high-walled courtyard and a narrow tunnel and into the first hall of the temple. It was a spectacle that no one could have imagined. Inside, the large rectangular limestone temple was supported by six massive columns set at even intervals around the room, and at one end, a gurgling spring bubbled cool water into a wide stone basin. “Fons Solis,” whispered Alizar, quoting again from Alexander’s journal. “The Fountain of the Sun. It feeds fresh water to the entire city.”
Seven steps led up through a tremendous archway carved of pale stone covered in hieroglyphs. Tarek translated the words set in stone above the steps. “Look down, not towards the step above, lest ye become proud.” Beyond the inscription stood the second hall, where high overhead, the body of the celestial goddess Nut stretched across the entire ceiling, her arms and feet reaching from one wall to the other, her mouth swallowing the sun. The columns, walls, and even floor had also been painted with colorful Egyptian murals, most of which depicted the god Amun-Ra interacting with his worshippers. But a few indicated the tasks of every day life. Women held blue lotus flowers before their naked bellies as men fished from small lateens encircled by crocodiles. Vertical lines of hieroglyphs bridged the images. Alizar instructed Tarek to make several quick sketches, hoping their host would afford them the time to linger a moment.
A sight at the end of the temple caught Hannah’s eye. There, beyond the swirling smoke of the thick incense, sat a long golden barge on a raised dais. Hannah looked up to the wall and noticed an identical barge in miniature captained by Amun-Ra and supported by twenty devotees, the weight of it set upon the shoulders of the god’s willing devotees. She pointed it out to Gideon, and as she did, she realized it was the first time she had thought to share something with him without wishing he was Julian… [edited for spoilers] …There were so many obstacles before them, it seemed unkind to add another.
While they marveled at the visual treasures of the temple, a door on the far side opened, and a flood of Siwans rushed in and found seats along the wall. Apparently the oracle required an audience. Alizar chuckled to himself at the vanity of the gods. The populace of Siwa was surprisingly quiet and reverent for such a large group, taking seats on the floor behind the columns to leave the center of the temple open as a playing field. When it seemed that everyone in the entire oasis was present, the temple door closed, and out from behind one of the columns stepped Omar-the-Goat clad in full-length white ceremonial robes. On his head he wore a pair of gilded ram’s horns, richly ornamented with emeralds and other precious stones, which curved around his narrow face and shoulders. He carried a long staff in his good hand, not dissimilar to the caduceus of Hermes, and approached them guided by two bare-chested young boys who led him forward by the elbows.
Alizar gestured for the others to keep silent and stepped forward to address the ceremonial hierophant.
Silence. Alizar and Omar-the-Goat bowed to each other respectfully. The remoteness of the oracle had made it all the more appealing to consult, but now, looking into the tired face of an old man, Alizar hoped they had not made the trek in vain. He held out a heavy black obsidian jar to Omar-the-Goat.
Hannah held her breath.
Omar-the-Goat unscrewed the lid, dipped a finger into the jar, and withdrew it covered in a viscous amber liquid.
Hannah smiled. Honey.
The priest accepted the gift and bowed.
This excerpt continues at Romance ‘Out Of This World’ on Nov. 16th.
Praise for Written In the Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zandt
“In her captivating debut novel, Written in the Ashes, K. Hollan Van Zandt brings to life a fascinating and forgotten woman of history: Hypatia of Alexandria, who may have been one of the greatest female minds of all time. If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to walk the streets of long ago Egypt, then look no further. You will be enthralled!”– Michelle Moran, international bestselling author of Nefertiti and Cleopatra’s Daughter
“Van Zandt’s vivid description of the Great Library instantly transported me to a lush fifth century Alexandria. Her lyrical writing style and breakneck storytelling kept me riveted to the very last page.”– Robin Maxwell bestselling author of The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn and Signora da Vinci.
“Going back so far in time leaves an author with little written record to rely on for fact. The burning of the Great Library at Alexandria was a monumental loss to humanity. The facts of the matter aside, this novel was truly arresting and I had a hard time putting it down to get anything done.
Ancient history fascinates me. Religion fascinates me. This book manages to tie both together in a story that resonates through time.
The book was fascinating. The characters were well developed and I really didn’t want to leave this world of ancient Alexandria. The imaginary, magical priests and the beautiful goddesses created by Ms. Van Zandt lent themselves to a mystical world that was quite believable within its context. As the story unfolded I was rooting for Hannah to fulfill her destiny and find peace with her past. I am looking forward to the next chapters in these characters lives.”-Patty Woodland, Broken Teepee
About the Author
Kaia Van Zandt is a celebrated author and teacher whose novel, Written in the Ashes, chronicles the events that led up to the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria, Egypt. Kaia’s spiritual journey began at age 14 when she founded the youth division of the Humane Society of the United States. Then as a junior in high school, she traveled to the Earth Summit in Brazil, where she taught meditation, and was given the opportunity to work with world leaders on the challenges facing humanity and the planet today, an experience that profoundly influenced her work.
She’s a graduate of Antioch University, where she focused on the intersection between the ancient Goddess traditions and modern culture. Her fascination with healing-both personally and collectively – led her to yoga. During her career she’s worked with thought leaders like Marci Shimoff and Deepak Chopra, actors like Ashley Judd, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Garry Shandling, as well as Sony ImageWorks, UCLA Medical, and the San Francisco 49ers. Her beloved writing mentor is bestselling novelist/humorist, Tom Robbins.
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