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This is a gem of a book - a must for any lover of Arabian Nights as myself, written in its style as stories within stories and taking place where else but in the Baghdad of Harun Al Rashid, but with a modern sensibility that fits the story perfectly. While the plot despite its side-complications is fairly predictable, that is not the main attraction but the atmosphere, the stories themselves and of course the characters. Most notably the title one, Abu Nuwas aka "Father of Locks" so named for h This is a gem of a book - a must for any lover of Arabian Nights as myself, written in its style as stories within stories and taking place where else but in the Baghdad of Harun Al Rashid, but with a modern sensibility that fits the story perfectly.
Most notably the title one, Abu Nuwas aka "Father of Locks" so named for his hairstyle, famous poet, lover of boys and wine and luckily living in a time and a place that allowed the indulgent consummation of both at least as long as it was not too scandalous. A somewhat reluctant agent of the famous Wazir Jafar of Arabian Nights fame and sort of court poet to Harun, Abu Nuwas' first meeting with the Caliph is just hysterical, though it almost turned tragic and as recounted later represents a perfect sample of how the book goes.
The narrator and other main character is a young Irish youngster who sold by his father to Al Andalus traders for wine, becomes a sort of surrogate child to them, but later when their ship comes back to the Mediterranean and is boarded by Christian pirates and he is captured and cruelly raped by the captain, barely manages to escape swimming after killing his rapist at night only to be sold in slavery on the North African coast; luckily his passion for learning and ability to spin tales gets him bought by a kindly master Hermes with ambitions of training promising young boys to be sold at higher mark-up as entertainers and such later Things turn otherwise and the young Ismail al-Rawia The Teller of Tales as he calls himself finally makes its way through the Caliphate to the legendary Baghdad where his most fond wish is to read some ancient Greek scrolls By mis chance he comes to the attention of Jafar and only his quick wit and poetry quoting saves young Ismail from mutilation for theft, but Jafar likes the boy's quick wit and in typical Arabian Nights fortune reversal he is sent to Abu Nuwas as his apprentice and to help him investigate a demon-like apparition in Baghdad.
And of course Abu Nuwas is in trouble with creditors as usual, while his tongue cannot help but make things worse so it's up to Isamil to save the day from the beginning And Baghdad is in ferment too since famous visitors, namely an embassy from the far off Franks of Chrlemagne is coming and Harun al-Rashid or more precisely his ministers would like good relations with the upstart Frankish King since his immediate neighbors and rivals happen to be the Caliphate's two big western thorns, the Cordoba emirate where the former Ummayad dynasty - overthrown just a generation ago by Harun's grandfather - still rules and the Eastern Roman Byzantine Empire Just superb, a book to enjoy and immerse in and hopefully one of more to come featuring the two heroes View 2 comments.
May 06, Daniel rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites , historical , lgbtq , arabian-nights. Repost - old review! The Father of Locks is a beautifully written historical adventure story. Set in Baghdad around AD this is a story clearly inspired by the famous "Arabian Nights" or One Thousand and One Nights stories, and both the structure of the story and the rhythms of sentences evoke a wonderful sense of "story" as told by a true storyteller. This is the kind of book that makes me think I want to write like that!
That makes me want to buy up every copy I can find and force it on every Repost - old review! That makes me want to buy up every copy I can find and force it on everyone I know. The framing story is the main story, with backstory and side-stories related as stories within the story told by one character to another. But the framing story truly is the strong story and the tales within tales serve to illuminate the main story and its world, this is not the sloppy pasting together of short stories one all to often finds with the stories-within-a-story format. The story is narrated by a boy of around fifteen who was taken as a slave from the coast of Cornwall many years before.
Yeah, I know, I was skeptical about that too, but it works well. Ismail, as he's called, is fairly thoroughly acculturated, yet ignorant enough of the history of Baghdad and Islam to need certain things explained, and the story of how he came from Cornwall to Baghdad is believable and entertaining. Additionally Killeen pulls off perhaps the best, and cheekiest, viewpoint shift I've ever read.
The first thirteen pages are told in third person. There are a few pages of backstory but we soon are watching Ismail as he arrives at Baghdad.
Outside the last rays of the sun warmed the youth in his hiding place. Rather I should say, warmed me; for I remember the cool stone on my back, and the crisp sweetness of the stolen fruit as I bit into its flesh. I must confess that I was that pale thief -- yes, I was young once, however strange that seems now. I find it hard to believe myself. Yet how many of us, as we look back to our past, really recognize ourselves in those callow, distant adolescents whose decisions have set the course of our lives?
You may be cross with me, perhaps, and feel that I have deceived you. You may ask, how could I have known the names of the costermonger, of the boy and his father, and of the singing girl, let alone their innermost thoughts? I could not, of course; and I did not.
But what I say is true, nonetheless. I am al-Rawiya, the Teller of Tales. So there.
Ismail quickly gets into trouble and finds himself ordered to assist the eccentric poet Abu Nuwas, the Father of Locks of the title, in investigating reports of the devil walking the streets of the city. Abu Nuwas wastes no time in attempting to seduce Ismail, which brings up the topic which may be off-putting to some readers.
The book has several sex scenes, both male-female and male-male. I find the way the sex scenes are written to be a bit strange myself. I admit I am a bit of a purist. In the same way that I don't like my green beans touching my mashed potatoes, I don't like sex in my stories or stories in my porn.
The sex scenes use some euphemistic language, yet are explicit enough to probably bother those who are bothered by such things, and yet perhaps not explicit enough to satisfy those who might enjoy them. That's my impression at any rate, though, as I said, I don't particularly care for sex scenes in books and tend to skim over them so take my opinion with a grain of salt. Anyway, this is a really fun book, and easily makes it onto my favorites list. If the above mentioned sex scene does not fill you with moral outrage, I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys both a well told story and a well crafted sentence.
Feb 09, Simon Fairbanks rated it it was amazing. In many ways, this is exactly what Killeen himself has achieved. The Father of Locks is fundamentally a detective story but this primary plot is often put on hold whilst a character tells another story to provide back-story or history or religious fable.
In this respect, it shares much with the Middle-Eastern fairy tales of "I have an idea for a story which will contain all the other stories in the world," says one character in Andrew Killeen's debut Arabian detective novel, The Father of Locks. In this respect, it shares much with the Middle-Eastern fairy tales of One Thousand and One Nights, which ultimately makes for a rich reading experience and adds great variety and depth to Killeen's novel. The foremost plot involves Abu Nawas, the titular Father of Locks, and his new protege, Ismail, investigating a series of child abductions in the great city of Baghdad at the request of the Wazir.
Abu Nawas and Ismail soon form a Sherlock and Watson relationship: bonding, bickering and saving each other's lives as they encounter numerous adversaries along the way. Those not interested in historical fiction set in ancient Arabia may hesitate to approach such a novel.