Flame: The Book of Sorahb (Farsala Trilogy Series #1)

Flame: The Book of Sorahb (Farsala Trilogy Series #1)

by Hilari Bell

Stories are told of a hero who will come to Farsala's aid when the need is greatest. But for thousands of years the prosperous land of Farsala has felt no such need, as it has enjoyed the peace that comes from being both feared and respected.

Now a new enemy approaches Farsala's borders, one that neither fears nor respects its name and legend. But the rulers of

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Stories are told of a hero who will come to Farsala's aid when the need is greatest. But for thousands of years the prosperous land of Farsala has felt no such need, as it has enjoyed the peace that comes from being both feared and respected.

Now a new enemy approaches Farsala's borders, one that neither fears nor respects its name and legend. But the rulers of Farsala still believe that they can beat any opponent.

Three young people are less sure of Farsala's invincibility. Jiaan, Soraya, and Kavi see Time's Wheel turning, with Farsala headed toward the Flames of Destruction. What they cannot see is how inextricably their lives are linked to Farsala's fate -- until it's too late.

In Flame, the first volume of The Book of Sorahb, Hilari Bell introduces readers to a world of honor, danger, and magic in this spellbinding tale of self-discovery.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In the bracing first installment of Bell's (The Goblin Wood) planned three-part fantasy series, The Book of the Sorahb, the land of Farsala is facing invasion by the notoriously vicious warrior nation of Hrum. The temple priests say that the gods must be assuaged in order to save Farsala, so they demand the commander of the military sacrifice his 15-year-old daughter, Soraya. Soraya's exile to the wilderness-where, ostensibly, the fates will decide whether to let her live or die-is one of three stories that unfold. More compelling are the other two: Jiaan, a bright young ex-peasant who is taken under the commander's wing and rises to the occasion when the day of battle arrives; and Kavi, a crooked merchant, captured by the Hrum while peddling fake gold merchandise and forced to become a spy against his homeland. The cast is fully formed: the bad guys aren't entirely bad, the good guys not entirely good (the Hrum appear enlightened, even giving full citizenship rights to their captors, while the Farsala at times appear more ruthless). Another subplot concerns a fascinating back story of two star-crossed lovers and their offspring who is to become the messianic savior of the Farsala nation, and who promises to figure heavily in the second volume. The first few chapters are a bit intimidating, even confusing, though: Bell constructs her world with a daunting new vocabulary, and readers will likely have to read the book's opening more than once. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The twelve major houses of Farsalan deghan must show solidarity and loyalty to the gahn as they prepare to battle the Hrum. Merahb, ruler of the Leopard house, must sacrifice his daughter. Left alone to die in the woods, she is rescued and hidden in a peasant's cottage. A peddler is hired to inform Merahb of her welfare, but he turns traitor and supplies the Hrum with Farsalan military plans. The first battle is decisive and a clear victory for the Hrum. The Hrum have a law, however, that a country must be conquered in a year, or left in peace, and a small group of Farsalan survivors plan to hide and hold one enclave until the year is up. Although the Farsalan commander died, his bastard son and royal daughter survived to carry on the struggle. Flame is the first volume of "The Book of Sorahb" and sets the stage for future conflict and bloody resolution. It is full of treachery and arrogance, ruthless competition and bravado, battles and bloodshed. 2003, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, Ages 14 to 18.
—Janet L. Rose
Flame is about the legacy of a great fallen warrior Sorahb who was slain by his unknowing father, Rostam. Rostam's sorrow was so great that the god Azura took pity and promised to keep Sorahb until the country was in dire trouble, at which time Sorahb would return and be Farsala's champion. This story is the beginning of that dire trouble. The author makes the complex story line flow so it can be followed easily. It is one of the best books I have ever read, and anyone who loves to read will enjoy this book. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P M J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Simon & Schuster, 352p,
— Kelsey Sands, Teen Reviewer
Set in the imaginary land of Farsala, this fantasy features three teenagers: the spirited lady Soraya, daughter of the commander of the army; the commander's loyal bastard son, Soraya's half-brother Jiaan; and a clever peasant peddler named Kavi. Long at peace, Farsala is now in danger of attack by the Hrum, who have already conquered "half the known world." Much like the Romans, the Hrum have perfected the art of war but they also have laws to protect citizens and even slaves, in contrast to the Farsala, a society of "haughty, ruthless" nobles and downtrodden peasants. These nobles are superstitious, and demand a sacrifice by the army commander of what he loves best; his daughter Soraya; to help ward off the Hrum's attack. Instead, he arranges to secret his adored child away in a far land, with the help of Jiaan and Kavi. There Soraya makes friends with a desert tribe and learns to do magic and control fire. Meanwhile, Jiaan goes to war with his father, determined to at least hold off the Hrum for a year so that Farsala can attain the desirable status of an allied state rather than a conquered territory. In yet another plotline, Kavi, who has been a spy for both sides, decides that he must free the Hrum's Farsalan slaves. The narrative point of view switches between the main characters, interspersed with episodes from an ancient Persian myth. Bell, author of other imaginative YA novels (I especially recommend A Matter of Profit), writes engagingly, blending history, myth, fantasy, and adventure, and readers will enjoy getting to know the strong-willed Soraya, the steadfast Jiaan, and the resourceful Kavi. It will be interesting to see how Bell brings them together in future volumes tofight their common enemy. This is more in the vein of historical fiction than fantasy but should appeal to fans of both genres. (The Book of Sorahb, Volume 1). KLIATT Codes: JS; Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2003, Simon & Schuster, 352p.,
— Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-Adventure, mythology, politics, military tactics, and intrigue combine in this sweeping fantasy that draws its underpinnings from ancient Persian poetry and the relentless march of the Roman army. The story of Farsala and its fight to remain free of the domination of the Hrum is told from the viewpoint of three young people: Jiaan, the illegitimate son of Merahb, High Commander of the Farsalan army; Merahb's spoiled daughter, Soraya; and Kavi, a traveling merchant who has suffered at the hands of the ruling deghans. As the Hrum army advances inexorably on Farsala, these three discover their own unique roles in the survival of their country. Notions of freedom, ability, and responsibility play out against a panorama of magic and majesty. The crisp dialogue, finely tuned characterizations, and vivid descriptions make the people and landscape seem as real as those in any grand historical epic. The inevitable comparison between Rome and Hrum adds to the feeling of reality, while the inclusion of the ancient legend about Rostam and Sorahb not only increases the sense of mythological mystery, but also provides a backdrop for Farsala's lush, Persianlike culture. Fantasy lovers as well as boys who delight in military minutiae will be left waiting breathlessly to discover the fate of Farsala and the three young people on whom its survival depends.-Sharon Grover, Arlington County Department of Libraries, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Three complex characters narrate this richly textured story, based partly on an ancient Persian legend, as their land is threatened by war. Proud Soraya, a deghass (noble), is hustled into hiding by her commander father when the corrupt temple demands her blood sacrifice. Jiann, the same commander's child but with a peasant mother, struggles with the confusing military and familial roles his half-deghan, half-peasant status requires. Kavi, a clever peddler with a deghan-crippled hand, becomes a spy for the attacking Hrum. These three meet only rarely, but their decisions are connected in ways they barely understand. What will it mean if Soraya learns djinn magic from pale-skinned desert dwellers? How will perhaps-mythical fighter Sorahb (his story told in offset italic chapters) become real again? Class and family issues, and moral differences between societies, are interwoven so well with adventure and archetypal resonance that depth arrives unannounced. The second volume wants only a more detailed map as Soraya, Jiann, and Kavi throw themselves heart-first into the war. (map) (Fantasy. YA)

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Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
Farsala Trilogy Series, #1
Product dimensions:
5.52(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.11(d)
890L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: Jiaan

Jiaan ducked, and a bronze cup shaped like a ram's horn crashed into the wall behind him. It didn't clatter on the floor, since the thick carpets that had already absorbed its contents muffled the sound. He hoped the carpets wouldn't be too hard to clean. Jiaan knew that some people found it harder than others to fight off the djinn of rage. But he didn't think the lady Soraya was even trying.

"Lady, if you'll just lis -- "

"I have listened," the girl snarled. Her grip tightened on the second cup. Her loose hair -- the straight, black hair of the noblest of noble lines -- was disheveled. The tight vest she wore beneath her loose, silk overrobe rose and fell with the force of her breathing. At fifteen, she was probably the most beautifully feminine creature Jiaan had ever seen -- so what djinn-cursed fool had taught her to throw like a shepherd boy?

"I have listened," she repeated. "But all I've heard is that my father -- my own father! -- seeks to cast me out like some peas -- like broken rubbish!"

Like some peasant-spawned bastard. It was an insult so familiar that Jiaan's heart hardly flinched. At least she hadn't said it aloud. That surprised him; most deghasses wouldn't have given a moment's thought to the possibility that he might be offended. But Jiaan's father hadn't cast him out. Far from it. And High Commander Merahb didn't intend...

"He doesn't intend to cast you out." Jiaan made his tone reasonable, despite the way her lovely, dark eyes narrowed. "He only means to hide you away for a time, in order to -- "

"Away in some peasant sty..."

The second cup flew, and Jiaan sidestepped nimbly.

"...in somedung-sucking outland while..."

Her groping hand found a niche, carved into the outer wall between the arched windows, and came to rest on a goblet whose glass bowl glowed as blue as the heart of a flame. Its base was chased in gold. Its worth was probably ten times that of Jiaan's sword, and his sword was more costly than all his other possessions put together.

The goblet hurtled toward the wall. Jiaan leaped, cursing the carpets that hindered his feet. He caught the goblet with the tips of his fingers, fumbled with it for an endless moment, and settled it into a secure grasp.

The plate it had rested on, thrown like a discus, struck him full in the chest, bruising him even through the padded silk layers of his armor.

"Ow!" Had she distracted him deliberately? "He's only trying to save your life, you...Lady Soraya. The gahn rules all of Farsala. Even the high commander has to obey him."

"Dung!" she shrieked. The incense burner her hand fell on next -- small but solid stone and bronze -- made a dent in the heavy panels of the door at Jiaan's back. "The armies of Farsala haven't propitiated the war djinn since Rostam cast down the last djinn emperor. Centuries ago! And he thinks he's going to exile me for however long it takes to win his stupid war? Well, I won't -- "

The door behind Jiaan opened. "You won't have any choice," said a woman's voice coldly. "And if you're overheard by the wrong people, your choices will become fewer -- and even less pleasant than exile."

Jiaan stepped aside and bowed, the goblet still in his hands. Commander Merahb's wife, the lady Sudaba, moved gracefully into the small solarium.

Soraya froze, her hand clenched around the carved wooden horse she'd been about to throw. "Madam my mother, have you heard of this...this outrage? What about my marr -- "

"I imagine everyone has heard." Sudaba took the goblet from Jiaan and crossed the room to return it to its shelf. "But I see no reason to give them any more information about our family's private affairs." Her ironic gaze rested on Jiaan.

He bowed himself out of the room, but not before Sudaba seized her daughter's ear and twisted it.

His own peasant-born mother had twisted his ears, and paddled his buttocks as well. But along with occasional -- and usually deserved -- punishment, there had been warmth, laughter, and love. Not only from her, but even from the farmholder to whom Jiaan's father had given her, when he was required to wed a deghass and produce a noble heir. His mother had died of a fever two years after the commander had outraged everyone by taking a peasant-born bastard into his household as a page, instead of as a servant. Jiaan still missed her.

Jiaan looked around the second-story gallery on which he stood. Intricately carved rails, sanded, waxed, and polished, encircled the courtyard below. Summer was ending; the leaves on the ornamental bushes looked dusty, almost ready to turn and fall, but a handful of late roses still bloomed, and the splash of the fountain calmed his ruffled nerves.

The home in which he'd lived till he turned ten had rough, log walls, and the plain, plank floors had never seen a carpet -- yet he thought he'd been luckier than the lady Soraya.

On the other hand, all she had to do was go quietly and be patient for a while. Was that too much to ask?

The door behind him opened, and Sudaba emerged. "Soraya will depart with you tomorrow morning," she said calmly.

"Yes, madam." Jiaan bowed. She was eight inches shorter than he, but the assurance in her eyes made him feel as if he were the smaller.

"You should have pointed out that her father is plotting to save her," Sudaba murmured. "At some risk."

The crash of priceless glass against the door made Jiaan wince.

Sudaba didn't even twitch. "And however inconvenient it may seem, it's much better than the alternative."

In fact, Jiaan had pointed out all those things. Soraya hadn't cared. "Yes, madam."

"This is just a ploy." Sudaba leaned on the gallery rail, gazing down at the garden with unseeing eyes. "Another move in the game. But a good one."

Jiaan settled back to wait with the ease of long practice, till she noticed his existence long enough to dismiss him. The late-afternoon sun lit the expensive, brocaded silk of her overrobe and the almost equally expensive, fine-woven linen underrobe beneath it. Gold on brown, to honor the approaching harvest. Her hair, as straight and black as her daughter's, was caught up in a complex coil, twined with silk ribbons knotted with glowing glass beads and the hawk feathers only a deghass, a lady of the noble class, could wear.

Jiaan's hair was brown and curly, like his mother's...and his father's. Many of the deghans had peasant hair. But not Sudaba. In her youth, the poets had said, she'd been as lovely and imperial as the moon. And as distant, Jiaan thought now, watching her calculate the political implications of her daughter's fate. As indifferent.

But then a black-haired boy, his brown skin as naked as the day, burst shrieking into the courtyard and toddled toward the fountain. Two nursemaids, armed with trousers and tunic, hurried after him.

Sudaba's frown faded and her eyes lit, her face suddenly, warmly maternal. Merdas, the long-awaited heir, had finally confirmed her status, eliminating the danger that she could be set aside allowing High Commander Merahb to take another wife. But still...Jiaan had served in the high commander's household for seven years -- as page, as squire, and now as the commander's aide -- and he had never seen Sudaba's face soften like that for Soraya.

On the other hand, her father loved her best. "The commander of the army must sacrifice the being he holds most precious in all the world," the priests had said. "Or the djinn of war will give their favor to the armies of the Hrum, who will roll over Farsala like the darkness of the pit itself."

Jiaan wondered uneasily which of the commander's enemies had bribed the priests to say it. And why. No, he didn't envy his half sister. Even if she was a silly, spoiled she-bitch.

Copyright © 2003 by Hilari Bell

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