Map of Bones

In the wrong hands, the bones of the Magi could destroy the world!

During a crowded service at a cathedral in Germany, armed intruders in monks’ robes unleash a nightmare of blood and destruction. But the killers have not come for gold; they seek a more valuable prize: the bones of the Magi who once paid homage to a newborn savior . . . a treasure that could reshape the world.

With the Vatican in turmoil, Sigma Force under the command of Grayson Pierce leaps into action, pursuing a deadly mystery that weaves through sites of the Seven Wonders of the World and ends at the doorstep of an ancient, mystical, and terrifying secret order. For there are those with dark plans for the stolen sacred remains that will alter the future of humankind . . . when science and religion unite to unleash a horror not seen since the beginning of time.

Looking for a good book to read this summer? I highly recommend Map of Bones by James Rollins.

The book opens with an attack on the relics (bones) of the Magi in Cologne on July 23, the anniversary of the day the relics were brought to Cologne in 1164. The Three Kings were very popular and attracted a constant stream of pilgrims to Cologne. Construction of the present Cologne Cathedral was begun in 1248 to house these important relics. The cathedral took 632 years to complete and is now the largest Gothic church in northern Europe.

A mystery, “The Bishop and the Three Kings” by Andrew Greeley, is also about the theft of the shrine.

Read more about the shrine of the Magi in Cologne here.

The Golem, the Jinni, and the Syrians in New York

“The Golem and the Jinni,” by Helene Wecker was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, and won the 2014 Mythopoeic Award.

These two books–one a novel, the other a study of Arab immigrants to Manhattan’s Lower East Side–are a fascinating pair to read in conjunction with each other. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker tells the story of two mythical beings–one Jewish, the other Syrian– which takes readers on a dazzling journey through cultures in turn-of-the-century New York. Strangers in the West: The Syrian Colony of New York City, 1880-1900 by Linda K. Jacobs tells the never-before-told story of the first Arab immigrants to settle in Manhattan.

Both books explore many themes but one that stands out is the tolerance individuals from each community had for the other even as each community–as well as the broader society of Manhattan–struggled with the presence of those they each considered “the Other.” The twists and turns of the novel reflect the twists and turns of historic life for the immigrants who struggled to make new lives for themselves and their families in the New World. (I never quite appreciated how radical the idea of the New World was until I saw The Hunt for Red October (based on Tom Clancy’s book) and heard Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) welcome Soviet submarine captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) to the New World after Capt. Ramius quotes Christopher Columbus’ musings that “the sea will grant each man new hope, as sleep brings dreams of home.”)

Too many people seem too eager to demonize a wide variety of “Others” in modern society. Add either–or BOTH!–of these books to your “Want to Read” list and see how we were able to overcome such attempts at demonization in the past while enjoying wonderful storytelling!

Want to know more? Read the Huffington Post article about Strangers in the West or my post about The Golem and the Jinni.

“Strangers in the West” by Linda K. Jacobs tells the story of this classic multiethnic neighborhood which had a dominant Arabic-speaking influence from the 1880s to 1940s, and which served as the “Mother Colony” for the substantial Syrian and Lebanese immigration to the United States.

The Byzantine World of Videssos

videssos-1

Are you looking for an alternate reality or a parallel universe to step into while traveling for Thanksgiving or dealing with difficult family over the holidays? I cannot recommend the Videssos Cycle by Harry turtledove TOO highly! It is excellent!

In The Misplaced Legion, the first of the books, the Roman tribune Marcus Scaurus held the spell-scribed sword of a Druid priest, and the Celtic chieftain Viridovix held a similar sword, bespelled by a rival Druid sorcerer. At the moment they touched, the two found themselves under a strange night sky where no stars were familiar and where Gaul and Rome were unknown. They were in an outpost of the embattled Empire of Videssos–in a world where magic and dark sorcery would test their skill and courage as no Roman legion had ever been tested before.

Readers who know something of Byzantine history will quickly discover that the world of Videssos is closely modeled on the Byzantine Empire familiar to those of us who inhabit THIS reality. Harry Turtledove, himself a Byzantine historian as well as an award winning sci-fi and fantasy author, uses his knowledge of Byzantium to full advantage. Well known friends and enemies, dogmatic disputes, intricate social hierarchies are all recognizable in Videssos. But you do NOT need to know anything of Byzantium to appreciate the wonders and glory of the world Turtledove has created within the covers of these books.

The Videssos Cycle by Harry Turtledove is a four book series which is now available in two volumes, each volume containing two of the original books. Therefore, the covers are different now as well.

See my post about another Turtledove classic, Thessalonica, here.