Title: The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari
Author: Sarah Black
Cover Art: Paul Richmond
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com (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: