From the Publisher
Advance Praise for The Lion of Cairo
"The mark of exceptional historical fiction is its creation of an alien world so convincing (and peopled by such fascinating characters) that the reader never wants to go back to the real world. Scott Oden delivers exactly that in The Lion of Cairo, a tale of Assad the assassin that reads like a cross between the Arabian Nights and a Hollywood blockbuster. Memnon and Men of Bronze put Mr. Oden squarely on the hist/fiction map. The Lion of Cairo assures his place in the very front rank." —Steven Pressfield, New York Times bestselling author of Gates of Fire
“The Lion of Cairo is filled to the brim with assassins and concubines, caliphs and street thugs, the devout and the heretical. It’s partly a swashbuckling historical, partly a tale of palace intrigue, partly a fast and furious espionage yarn. A terrific trip into Cairo’s exotic past. Just pray that the Emir of the Knife is on your side…” David Anthony Durham, award-winning author of Pride of Carthage
"A fabulous medieval adventure with plenty of swords and a hint of sorcery in the form of a demon-haunted sword that reminds me a bit of the one owned by Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné. Assassins and crusaders, caliphs, viziers and courtesans mix it up in a vividly recreated desert world." HistoricalFictionOnline.com
Praise for Scott Oden:
“Oden's masterful story of bloody battles, political intrigues, betrayal and romance offers a gripping portrait of the collapse of an empire.” –Publisher’s Weekly (starred review) on Men of Bronze
“Fast, tense and exciting, Men of Bronze brings to life a fascinating moment in world history, the descriptions are terrific and the final, climactic battlefield scene is just brilliant.” Conn Iggulden, author of the bestselling Emperor series
“Historians have paid scant attention to Memnon of Rhodes, but Oden… brings the man and his times to life with a combination of vivid conjecture, deft plotting and graceful prose.” –Publishers Weekly on Memnon
Read an Excerpt
The sun hung in the bloodred sky like a misshapen lump of copper, its edges blackened, its face radiating waves of excruciating heat over a landscape ravaged by war. Thousands of mailed corpses littered the streets of Ascalon—bodies frozen in the act of dying; hacked asunder, blades of steel and iron yet clutched in their fists. Tattered pennons once carried with pride by Ascalon’s defenders now rustled like ghosts on the hot wind.
As a ghost, too, did the figure of a dark-haired child drift through the great mass of the slain, swinging a wooden sword in boyish abandon. With it, he lashed out at imaginary enemies, the flash of his pale limbs incongruous in this gore-blasted wasteland. He chased the wind, chased zephyrs of dust through deserted plazas and down winding streets; past fire-gutted buildings looted by victorious Nazarenes. The wind led the boy to the city’s heart, to where a ruined mosque squatted in the middle of a broad square.
Here the boy stopped, tapped the ground with the tip of his sword. His brows drew together as he eyed the structure. Curious, he mounted the shallow steps and peered through the open doorway. Inside, shadows swirled like smoke from a funeral pyre; shafts of copper light lanced through ruptures in the domed ceiling. The boy caught sight of a figure pacing the periphery of the chamber, a lean wraith clad in a surcoat of grimy white cloth who warily avoided the murky daylight.
The boy’s youth made him fearless. He crossed the threshold, his voice profaning the silence. “What was this place?”
Instantly the silhouette stopped and spun toward the door, falling into a predatory crouch. It snuffled the air like a hound on the trail of a hare.
“Are you deaf?” the boy said. “What was this place?”
“A tomb,” the figure replied, its voice hard and guttural, full of rage. It crept forward, still in a crouch. “And a prison.”
The boy glanced around, disbelieving. “A prison? For what? There’s no door.”
“For a fell and terrible beast.” Closer it came. “One that has not tasted flesh nor drunk blood since before you were ripped squalling from your mother’s womb, little one.” Closer, sidestepping a column of light. Menacing eyes glittered and sinew creaked. Still, the boy displayed no trepidation; he stood motionless, unwilling to credit the stranger’s words.
“What kind of beast?”
Now, with only six paces separating them, the figure straightened. This close, the boy saw a design in blood caking the chest of the figure’s surcoat: a cross, red on white. The stench of death clung to it; the boy blinked, his nose wrinkling. The smell reminded him that perhaps he should be cautious.
“The worst kind,” it hissed. “One that hungers!” The Templar threw its head back, howling its rage as it sprang on the startled child. Too late, the boy raised his wooden sword as searing cold talons dug into his throat …
Copyright © 2010 by Scott Oden