The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari

Title: The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari
Author: Sarah Black
Cover Art: Paul Richmond
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: (Second Edition)
Buy Link: n/a
Length: Novel/244 PDF pages/
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance/Adventure/Suspense
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5


A review by LadyM

Review summary: The Force is strong with this one.

Blurb: Fresh out of the closet, General John Mitchel and Gabriel Sanchez are settling into their new life together when an old army colleague taps them for a rescue mission to Tunisia. Eli and Daniel, two former Rangers working security, have been arrested in Carthage, charged with blasphemy and thrown into prison.

With rampant unrest in the ancient city and an old enemy targeting them, John gathers a team to liberate the two captive men. When he discovers Eli’s boyhood obsession with Al-Jazari’s Elephant Clock, the rescue becomes complicated and strangely beautiful, and John and Gabriel have to risk what they love the most to bring their team home.


When I start reading a sequel to a book I loved, I always approach it cautiously, on my tiptoes, so I can prod it first with a stick for fear that I’ll be disappointed and that it will diminish my enjoyment in the original book. Sometimes that is a good thing, but other times it creates a distance that, even when the book is great, prevents me from fully experiencing the story. When she compared the sky to Turkish delight in the first paragraph of this novel, Sarah Black grabbed me by the collar and threw me, again, in the life of John Mitchel and Gabriel Sanchez and didn’t let me go until John turned on the light in the last sentence. I remembered how I fell in love with these two mature, strong, loving men in The General and the Horse-Lord (reviewed here). The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari is continuation of their story.

Weeks after the events in the first book, John and Gabriel are living the consequences of coming out. They are not dramatic, but they add up: Gabriel’s children, especially Juan, acting out; small insults from the people who found out they are gay; John’s boredom due to unemployment. Additionally, Kim has involved Billy and Abdullah in his MFA project and his past and present are involved with Abdullah – something with which John isn’t comfortable.

When an old colleague asks John for help in rescuing two former Rangers, Daniel and Eli, accused for blasphemy in Tunisia, he jumps at the opportunity to use his diplomatic and other military skills. The rescue takes an unexpected turn when the better part of his chosen family ends up in Tunisia with him, and John and Gabriel have to work hard to bring their people safely home.

There is so much to love about this book and so much it inspires you to think about. The love these two men have for each other, their gentleness, their thoughtfulness, their humor, shine through the pages.

“This is what I’m going to remember on the day I die,” he said. “Right before I close my eyes, I’m going to remember this, the way your hand feels, the heat of your leg against mine, the smell of the skin on the back of your neck, like burnt sugar.”

I’m going to love him until the stars fall out of the sky.”

You’re the only kick-ass general I know who needs three gay boys to dress him, John.”
“But I only need one gay boy to undress me.”

The men are not unscathed by their decisions. Gabriel fears for his children and not without reason. He has so much to worry about that he needs the time and space to deal with it all. While John is ready to merge their lives, he is also willing to give Gabriel what he needs. Theirs is a true partnership, founded on love and understanding, tender and passionate at the same time. Gabriel’s new way of fighting illustrates this perfectly.

This is also a story about family – biological and chosen. John is a born protector and mentor and so it is natural for him to take the young people in need of assistance and learning under his wing. Whether it’s Sam, young ex-Ranger, dismissed from the military due to injury and aggression issues, Jen, a colleague’s idealistic and headstrong daughter, Eli, rescued young man who suffered torture and rape, or Kim, his nephew who is much more like John than he is willing to admit, John with Gabriel’s help offers them support, wisdom and love. I enjoyed his interaction with these young people full of tenderness and humor. It was great to see that the General has as much to learn from them as he has to offer.

The book celebrates connectiveness between peoples and cultures, universality of human dreams and triumph of human spirit. It’s a book that doesn’t allow cynicism – another rare thing in contemporary literature. Aside from the single character who is more type than anything else, all the other characters, Americans and Tunisians alike, are decent human beings. And, neither one of them is boring – they have flaws and baggage like everyone else in this world. Sarah Black paints them with great sensitivity and humor. The writing was so beautiful that I found myself occasionally choking up.

This review could, basically, go on forever if I were ever so foolish as to try and capture every single nuance of this novel. I could tell you how funny I found John’s hatred for a particular cream couch or the constant Star Wars references. I could tell you how touching it was when Gabriel tried to explain to his General that Kim had grown up to be just like him (“The biggest heart, and a mind like a steel trap that you don’t even see”) or how beautiful it was to discover magical Al-Jazari’s inventions together with the characters. I could do that and more and rob you from experiencing this story by yourself.

But, I will tell you (or maybe it’s only my wishful thinking) that I see one or two more books with these characters in the future, because all is not settled in the lives of our General and his Horse-Lord, Kim and Abdullah have secrets of their own and their household has new addition – a young man hurt and in denial. But, until the Muse hopefully takes Sarah Black down those roads, I recommend you to take the plunge and join “The General and the Horse-Lord’s Training Camp for Young Jedis” – you will not be disappointed.

This book will be released on October 25, 2013.

Picture of Al-Jazari’s Elephant Clock:

The Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari



  • Eva thanks so much for checking for me, I really appreciate it. LadyM – thanks as well – really sorry missed your response.

  • I finished it last night and I really, really love this book. (But I loved the first one very much, too!)
    The last few pages were almost the death of me. I cannot remember another book (mystery or horror inclusive) where I was so nervous to see the end line. 😆

    • Eva, at the end my heart was beating so fast and I stopped breathing – I thought I would faint, lol. I’m really glad you love the book(s). Now we have to wait for more. 🙂

  • As soon as I heard there was a sequel I ordered it. I’ve just downloaded it as my weekend reading – as soon as I finish High Concept by Whitley Grey that I’m really enjoying so far. Sarah Black really drew me in to these two wonderful, nuanced characters and I can’t wait to read it. Your review was terrific.

    • Hey, Madonna, you are in for a treat! The book is absolutely fantastic! Let me know your thoughts once you are finished. 🙂

  • Lady M
    Just finished this and loved it. I think there must be more to come about these wonderful guys because Kim is still on that road to find his place in life.
    Your review does the book great justice thank you. 🙂

    • Well, I’m keeping my fingers crossed! I am glad you like – both the book and my review, because, honestly, I wasn’t that happy with it. This series is so great; you just have to care for every single character. 🙂

  • I adore Sarah Black’s writing – so happy to hear there is a sequel to The General and the Horse-Lord! (I hope you’re right that there will be more.) I’ll definitely be up reading around midnight tonight. Thanks for the review!

    • Well, if Sirius is right, Sarah planned a trilogy – so we have one more at least. I, however, am certain that she mentioned a book about Kim and Abdullah – so, maybe, we have two. XD

      Let me know what you think about the book. 🙂

      • LadyM, I will have to refrain from saying what I think about the book till I give myself a few days to think, but I want to fact check myself if you do not mind please? Wasn’t Billy’s mother dead in the first book?! Why is she alive? Am I crazy? There is no way I am rereading the first book so I was hoping you could help me please? Thanks.

        • Frankly, S, I have no idea and my book is in one of my backup drives. When she was mentioned in this book, it didn’t ring any warning bells – but that doesn’t mean that my feeling was correct. You’ll have to dig for it. 😆

          • Yeah, lol I doubt that :). Thanks anyway. I really thought than when Cody comes to see Billy in the first book he tells John that his mother *was* petite, whatever something. Maybe I will check, but then I will be annoyed all over again, so we shall see. The main reason I noticed is because I thought that Martha finding love will be with Cody because he was a widower, but I have a suspicion that poor Martha will be destroyed in the next book now. I saw the interview on Good reads where author promises the revenge she plots over John in the third book. I have no words. I was hoping that this second book will lead to something different, but alas.

            • Sarah promised a “cowboy” for Martha in some interview (or on her blog, or on GR, I can’t be sure where I read this), but Cody was never mentioned in that context – it is likely his ranch is where she meets the man, but it’s not him.

        • Hi Sirius,
          I searched in the first book, and I think Billy’s mom is very much alive, because Cody Dial says in chapter 14 “Okay son. A week, then home, before your mother has a coniption fit.” 🙂

  • Wonderful review, but I have to ask: Is Martha the “single character who is more type than anything else”? I hope not. I was hoping that we would get more nuance from her character since she has a legitimate beef against Gabriel (he did, after all, marry her despite being in love with someone else and then cheat on her for years), and even though John seems to understand that, it wasn’t clear to me in the first book that Gabriel did. She was very much the bad guy in The General and the Horse Lord, and I thought it was a little unfair. Is she still?

    • No, the ‘type’ is this book’s bad guy. Martha is off page this time around (she is mentioned several times), but things seem a bit better between her and Gabriel. She’ll probably show up in another book (for I hope there will be more). 😀

      • Oh, good. Thanks. It’s very odd to find myself rooting for the ex-wife in a m/m romance, especially when I genuinely like both leads. Still, I was disgusted by Gabriel’s failure to comprehend the depth of the wrong that he had committed (a simple, genuinely felt apology probably would have fixed a lot for me), so whether or not he addresses his wrong in this book, I’m glad that she isn’t presented in such a negative way once again.

        • I was disgusted by what Gabriel did to Martha too and even more disappointed that Martha was portrayed as somebody being in the wrong. I am both happy and disappointed that Martha is off page. Happy because it looks like Kim is there and there will be lots of Kim, disappointed because looks like the message from the first book about treating your spouse like crap ( my opinion and my interpretation obviously – I know you do not agree LadyM :)) is here to stay. Thank you for the review – I am pretty sure the author mentioned that she is planning a trilogy so I think at least one more book will come. I am going to read this one no matter what – I am reviewing this series elsewhere and will do my best to stick with it. But for Martha’s storyline it would never been a chore for me 🙁 . Oh well.

  • Sarah Black is an automatic buy for me, and I also loved TGaTHL! I’m glad to read the sequel sounds just as great.
    It will be fun to revisit the family and their latest adventure 😀

    • She is fabulous, isn’t she? I’m sure you’ll love this book as much as I did. Let me know what you think when you read it. Enjoy!


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