THE SWORD AND THE WELL TRILOGY

 

The Days of the Arabs, The Time of Ignorance.
A time of jinn, poets, prophets, blood feuds, deserts.
A young man meets a young woman by a well.
The world is never the same.
The young man is Khalid ibn al-Walid, companion to the Prophet Muhammad, conqueror of much of the known world in the name of Islam.
And the woman--she has power of her own.

 

 

 

A TRAILER FOR THIS SERIES IS AVAILABLE

 


 

The Woman at the Well--vol. 1

ISBN-13-9781936940103

"Chamberlin (Gloria, 2005, etc.) breathes life into the ancient Arabic world in this epic historical novel of one girl's tumultuous search to discover her past ... Impeccable research and haunting, poetic language create a lush tale to be lingered over and savored."

-- Kirkus Reviews

 

"The Woman at the Well is an excellent historical novel–well written, well edited, and quite lyrical–and it is a contemporary novel giving insight into the history of Islam...I recommend this novel to anyone interested in gaining more understanding about Islam and the world today. "-- Kaye Trout Reviews

 

"I'm so pleased to bring you this interview with internationally bestselling author Ann Chamberlin. Ann's historical novels span a wide range of settings, from ancient Israel to medieval France to the harems of the 16th- and 17th-century Ottoman Empire.  Her latest book, The Woman at the Well, is an epic literary work that will introduce most readers to a new and unfamiliar place: 7th-century Arabia during the first years of Islam and the time slightly before."

--Sarah Johnson, Reading the Past

 

"Chamberlin ... breathes life into the ancient Arabic world..."

-- Super E-Books.com

 

"This remarkable tale of love, family and perseverance is richly rewarding on every level: storytelling at its finest." Five Stars!  -- Indie Reader

 

"Chamberlin breathes life into the ancient Arabic world in this epic historical novel of one girl's tumultuous search to discover her past ... Impeccable research and haunting, poetic language create a lush tale to be lingered over and savored." -- Kirkus Reviews

 

"Chamberlain’s dramatic tale gives great insight into daily life, war, and the powerful role women played in seventh Century Middle East culture."  -- Renaissance Magazine

 

 

An Excerpt from The Woman at the Well:

For one dreadful moment, everyone in the courtyard was as limp as the little victim, unable to move, their shrieks lingering over them like the souls of unplacated jinn. Then, horror exploded in half a dozen different, desperate acts all around the little girl, who remained unnaturally white and still. Rayah’s act was to kneel beside her cousin. She felt for life in the neck and couldn’t find it. The puddle of water was already growing pink, Bushra’s small face even paler in contrast.

Demiella jumped down from the fountain’s coping and came to kneel, too. “She’s dead.” Her voice was thin with hopeless guilt.

For her part, when she found the repeated call of Bushra’s name had no effect, Rayah began a chant of “Ya Latif, ya Latif, O Sensitive One,” over and over. This was one of the Ninety-Nine Names of Allah that Sitt Umm Ali had taught her students, the Name best to call on in times of hopelessness.

Auntie Adilah had run for Bushra’s mother and the other older women, resting in the shade of their arbor, but they had already heard the courtyard’s change of sound, the loud silence of death.

Bushra’s mother set up an inhuman wail as she flew across the court, threatening to slip as her daughter had done. Grownups reached for Rayah, to pull her out of the way. But she had her hand beneath the little girl’s head where, under the fine, dark hair, she felt the spot soft as a damp loofah.

“Ya Latif, ya Latif,” she sobbed and prepared to move away when she felt the strangest sensation under her fingers. Actually, it came through her fingers, centered upon the holy Name of God. Energy twitched, and the pieces of skull, like bits of broken eggshell beneath the skin, began to shift back into place.

Glued to her little cousin with blood, Rayah didn’t dare remove her hand, even though she trembled from head to foot. Her teeth chattered, and she had to repeat the prayer with her jaw clenched. The water dripping from her hair and clothes might have been thrown on her in mid-winter. Her eyes, her eyes were the worst. She squeezed them closed against needles of pain.

The pieces of skull swam, then locked, fused together like hot wax, smoothed. The tingling energy, the miracle, stopped.

What was happening? Rayah gasped with fear. What unearthly power was this? It couldn’t be her doing—she just a child herself. She tried to pull away.

And Bushra moved with a choking whimper.

“Ah God, ah God, she’s alive,” the child’s mother cried and caught the little body up in her arms to carry her to the best cushions under the arbor.

“Sitt Sameh will know what to do, God willing. Has somebody gone for Sitt Sameh?” Demiella asked, trying to brush away tears with a corner of her already damp sleeve.

But Sitt Sameh didn’t need to be fetched. She must have heard the silence of death, too, and stood on the stairs that ran down into the courtyard from the roof and her aerie. Her brow bunched around the blue-black tattoos of a desert tribe etched in the skin there, the ring in her nose held still. She stood just at the shadowy bend, Rayah noticed, where the cousins always said dark jinn hid.

Rayah looked away, but not before she felt that uncomfortable cool blue gaze—seeming blind and yet all-seeing both at once. The eyes rested, not where little Bushra had been borne, but on Rayah herself.

 

The Sword of God -- Vol. 2
ISBN-978-1-936940-43-1

 

". . .as vivid as a desert sunset. . ."  Kirkus Reviews

"Both historical and fictional characters populate a well-researched portrayal of the early Islamic era in this second installment in Chamberlin's The Sword and the Well trilogy. Building on The Woman and the Well, the author presents a broad view of a society in which the ascendancy of Islam is not yet complete. The narrative cuts between warrior Khalid the Conqueror and 12-year-old girl Rayah in a pre-Islamic era replete with superstition, polytheism, and blood feuds. The appearance of and references to Muhammad provide a vivid sense of the eruption of his doctrines on the society of the time, and of being an unknowing witness to history. Still, Chamberlin's approach is that of a novelist, not a theologian or historian, and readers interested in an imaginative rendering of this historical era should find this trilogy very rewarding."   Publishers Weekly starred review

 

Excerpt from The Sword of God

 

I am the pillar of Islam!

I am the Companion of the Prophet!

I am the noble warrior,

Khalid ibn al-Walid.

—Battle cry of Khalid ibn al-Walid

 

Dictated in the garden of Khalid the Conqueror in Homs, Syria during the twentieth year of the Hijra, 642 of the Christian era.

 

The walls of Damascus gleam before the armies of Islam in the heat of the summer sun. The mainstay of Rome in Syria, its great ashlar blocks stand the height of six men. Impregnable, they say. Certainly to barbaric men of the desert.

Then I give my war cry.

I give my war cry and ride to the head of my faithful army to meet the Roman commander.

Instead of drawing to duel at once, he speaks in Arabic learned during years in the eastern provinces of his empire. “O Arab brother, come near so that we two may parlay.”

He would duel first with words? Against us who have the poets and the Word of the Quran? But for one moment, fear churns in my stomach. Muhammad is dead. And I don’t have the greatest living poetess at my side. In fact, I’ve come surging all this way with Islam as the excuse; truly, however, for her—

But that is pagan idolatry. The Sword of God must lose with such an admission. And the Sword of God must not lose.

I reel my horse just beyond the commander’s lance throw. Let no one see through my soul. “O enemy of God,” I call back. “Come near me yourself so that I may take your head.”

The sun glints off his heavy armor. It must be like an oven in there. And under the red horsehair bristles of his helmet, sweat must blind him. Far better to be in clothes suited to this place. Far better to be under a red turban within which is wound a lock of the Prophet’s hair, blessings on him. Better to have the wind whipping through my loose robes.

Still the fool talks gently, as if coaxing a wild colt to him: “O Arab brother, what makes you come to fight?”

If he only knew. If any of them knew.

“Have you no fear that if I kill you, O Arab brother, your men will be left without a commander?”

“O enemy of God, I have with me men who regard death as a blessing and this life as an illusion. And who are you against such a force?”

That I pretend he is a nobody finally irks him to a loss of patience. He has a battlecry of his own: “I am the champion of Syria. I am the killer of Persians.”

“What is your name, infidel?”

“They call me Azrail, named for the Angel of Death. And I say to you, leave our land. Go back to the howling desert God made for you.”

I throw back my head and laugh. “You know nothing of God. But we submit to Him and to His Prophet. Your namesake is looking for you, O Azrail. He looks to take you to hell.”

Now, at last, he draws. But I am faster. I have my own namesake, Sayf-Allah, the Sword of God. As it comes singing out of its sheath, I hear the men behind me growl like a thousand bull camels in rut as they urge their mounts to charge. Sayf-Allah is a thirsty bit of iron and sky-stone. Once drawn, it never drops back into its sheath until it has drunk like a camel after a fortnight’s march. Before I resheathe, even impregnable Damascus shall be mine, and all of Syria shall tumble after her like overripe fruit right into our laps. My fruit this day is the Angel of Death himself. I charge, looking straight at the eyes within that death’s head of a helmet. I charge and do not flinch.

Al-hamdulillah, by the grace of God and by His sword, all mine.

 

 

The author’s obvious knowledge of and love for her subject matter transports the reader into cold desert nights to watch the glittering constellations of 13 centuries ago.  We learn of a camel’s unerring instinct for the scent of water and how to survive by drinking from a camel’s internal water cells—“blood-warm, curdling with its hint of acid, rennet, and hair” [p. 251]—should no oasis be available.  The lessons of the desert include how to hurt an enemy by destroying a well and erasing all evidence of its significance and history.  We absorb the minds and hearts of apostates and witness love between outcasts.  While Rayah learns the truth about her mother and father and their roles in history, the reader of this book watches our present-day world being born.  Amin. 

--Robin Cerwonka for The Bloomsbury Review

Five stars

'The richness and vitality of Chamberlin’s prose will keep the reader enthralled throughout. 

The book itself is a work of art. . .

This book is a winner.'

--Tilia Kiebenov Jacobs for IndieReader

 

 

Listed among the Best Indie Books of 2014

http://indiereader.com/2014/12/irs-best-books-2014/

"Chamberlin has woven a colorful. . .tapestry chronicling the difficult birth of a new religion. Her evocation of the harsh world of the desert, its peoples and its spiritual aura is. . .brilliant and beautiful. Her insights into the differences between men and women are. . .acute. . ."  --Kirkus Reviews

 

The Sword and the Well -- vol. 3

ISBN-978-1-936940-62-2

 

Excerpt from The Sword and the Well

 

“Peace to you, O Sword of God. You have returned from the Valley of Nakhlah.”

     “Peace to you, O God’s Apostle. I have.”

     “Is the deed done?”

     “It is done, O Messenger.”

     “What did you do?”

     “I chased old Dubayya from the shrine and threw a torch up into the palm-frond roof.”

     “Old Dubayya will return and rebuild the roof. Go back and destroy it permanently.”

***

     “I have returned, O God’s Apostle.”

     “What did you do this time?”

     “I cut down two of the trees.”

     “And what did you see?”

     “The trees. Trees and sand.”

     “Go back and destroy until you see more.”

     “But green is such a precious thing here in the desert. And a well...”

     “It is a pagan grove. Go back and root out the evil completely. Or shall I let Omar the Firebrand know that you are no longer to be counted among the Faithful?”

     “By God, I shall satisfy you, O Holy Messenger, or forever live dishonored.”

***

     “Well, Sword of God. Returned at last. You seem a little worse for wear.”

     “Forgive me, O Apostle of God. I have neither eaten food nor drunk water these five days.”

     “A fast is always a good thing when a man is struggling with his soul. Is the deed done?”

     “It is done, O Messenger.”

     “Tell me what you saw and what you did.”

     “Forgive me, O Messenger. I hardly dare to speak of it.”

     “I will send Omar away.”

     “Thank you, O Prophet.”

“Peace to you, O Sword of God. You have returned from the Valley of Nakhlah.”

     “Peace to you, O God’s Apostle. I have.”

     “Is the deed done?”

     “It is done, O Messenger.”

     “What did you do?”

     “I chased old Dubayya from the shrine and threw a torch up into the palm-frond roof.”

     “Old Dubayya will return and rebuild the roof. Go back and destroy it permanently.”

***

     “I have returned, O God’s Apostle.”

     “What did you do this time?”

     “I cut down two of the trees.”

     “And what did you see?”

     “The trees. Trees and sand.”

     “Go back and destroy until you see more.”

     “But green is such a precious thing here in the desert. And a well...”

     “It is a pagan grove. Go back and root out the evil completely. Or shall I let Omar the Firebrand know that you are no longer to be counted among the Faithful?”

     “By God, I shall satisfy you, O Holy Messenger, or forever live dishonored.”

***

     “Well, Sword of God. Returned at last. You seem a little worse for wear.”

     “Forgive me, O Apostle of God. I have neither eaten food nor drunk water these five days.”

     “A fast is always a good thing when a man is struggling with his soul. Is the deed done?”

     “It is done, O Messenger.”

     “Tell me what you saw and what you did.”

     “Forgive me, O Messenger. I hardly dare to speak of it.”

     “I will send Omar away.”

     “Thank you, O Prophet.”