Set in 410 C.E (Common Era), Written in the Ashes follows the journey of Hannah, a young Jewish girl who is kidnapped and sold as a slave in Alexandria. She is bought by Tarek who is mesmerised by her beauty. Once there, she is adopted as a slave by Tarek’s master, Alizar. Alizar has plans for Hannah which involve educating her. An honour for a slave who is woman. In addition to having a good grasp over education and being beautiful, Hannah also has a divine voice that can capture a person’s heart. As a result, she starts to perform in front of an audience due to listen to a lecture by Hypatia, one of the greatest female philosophers of the time and keeper of the Great Library of Alexandria. However, these are tumultuous times. The Christians led by Bishop Cyril are in the process of killing those they consider pagans. And that includes anyone who is not Christian. Hannah soon becomes the bishop’s target and is sent away in to hide in the Temple of Isis. She is torn between two men she loves and at the same time embarks on a journey to find The Emerald Tablet to help protect the pagans. The journey eventually leads to the Great Library being burnt. And although everything seems lost after that, it may not necessarily be the case.
Written in Ashes is a historical fiction novel inspired by true events. The Great Library did get burnt. But no one really knows how. The history also has its share of mythology which makes it even more interesting. The book is a whopping 400 pages but is captivating to keep you going at a stretch. For a person who is not really into historical fiction, I enjoyed this journey. Reading about Ancient Greek and Egypt and the rise of religious extremism through this book was extremely enlightening. It took me back to my days of studying about Ancient Greek, Rome and Egypt in school. The only history I actually liked. The author has developed all the characters beautifully. Both the good and bad. You can’t help but feel what they are feeling and you will find yourself holding your breath and feeling their fear. Hannah is a wonderful character. Endearing and strong. Confused yet clear. Intelligent yet rash. She is a mix of so many positives and flaws that make her what she is. The author’s writing style is also very captivating. She took 10 years to write this book and one can see why. It involves a lot of research! In the end, she manages to keep you hooked.
This is a work of true literature.
My rating is a 4.