Tea in the Sahara
Kev – Fiction Podcast Critic
Hello guys this week’s particular Tea in the Sahara review hits a small indie reviewing milestone of twenty reviews (small fanfare please!) Before I dive into my latest review I would quickly like to thank all of those who have supported me throughout this journey so far.
It goes without saying my friends & family continue to inspire me by keeping me both sane & humble. To the new set of pals & talented writers that I have met along my own ‘Scott across the Arctic’ writing quest, I would like to show my appreciation to you for welcoming me into the fold. Cheers!
With this week’s review we switch things up, dip the clutch, and return to the sandy cut-throat oasis city of Tumanbay with their latest audiobook instalment ‘The Poison Throne’ written by the incredible writing team Walker Dryden, published by Orion.
Naturally, I will be reviewing the audiobook version of this novel released on Audible, however, it can also be found in soft/hardback, and Kindle formats if any of those options is your jam.
This isn’t my first rodeo when it comes to writing a review of some of John’s previous works. I have been fortunate enough to have reviewed a few of John Scott Dryden’s other works, including the first novel within the Tumanbay cannon ‘The City of a Thousand Faces’ which is definitely worth checking out for a much more rounded picture of the Tumanbay landscape.
For those not so acquainted with the grand city of Tumanbay where this continuation novel is set let’s take stock. The theme of the novels is loosely based on the Mamluk slave dynasty of ancient Egypt. Or if you’d like my simplified version in my mind Tumanbay is a hybrid of the 1990’s video game Prince of Persia, with all the seediness of Jabba the Hutt’s Palace!
Since the sultans of this particular dynasty were themselves earlier slaves, or the sons of former slaves, the Mamluk dynasty became to be known as the slave dynasty.
There’s a city far way…
My parents often spoke of it as if it had always been there and always would be…
I had seen it in paintings, I had read about it in stories, the richest, most powerful city on earth the centre of everything.
It drew people from every corner of the empire and beyond, hungry for wealth and power, or in some cases, more wealth and more power. They were dazzled by its brightness…Tumanbay!
Returning to this series with ‘The Poison Throne’ offers another glorious deep dive into the magical world of Tumanbay and its new ruthless owners. But what is in store for its inhabitants under Mya’s rule?
I had almost forgotten how pivotal this second book was within the Tumanbay timeline. Not quite an Easter egg hunt, however, events which take place in this chapter within the series will surface at the final stages of the story.
I will keep schtum and let you work this out for yourselves! Naturally, audiobooks offer a different, granular version that books offer over podcasts which adds more elements to the history of Tumanbay.
Once the most magnificent city on earth now the previous empire lies in ruins. The chronology timeline for this second instalment feels roughly to be nine months after the closing events of the previous book.
A closing chapter within the Tumanbay legacy ended with the execution of its former Sultan Al-Ghuri. Opium addict Madu replaces his uncle as a puppet Sultan conjuring an illusion that all is well within the kingdom.
The mysteries Mya and her legions of black guard soldiers march into Tumanbay seizing power beginning the process any new dictatorship performs, eradicating the old regime and rewriting it’s own narrative.
Within the stripping out, and pillaging of the previous empire we are introduced to some new Tumanbay talent like the Inquisitor Barakat. A ruthless hatchet man hiding behind his unquestionable faith, and allegiance to queen Mya who reminded me of the snake Kaa from Jungle Book.
It is Barakat’s responsibility to root out heretics within the city, a job he seems to gleefully enjoy too much. And like an oil warning light coming on in your car in the middle of winter, you should be wary of Barakat.
With the changes in senior management gone are the buzzing markets, and humdrum of the city only to be replaced with curfews, patrols, and eerie silence across this once thriving city of commerce.
Life in Tumanbay under its new ownership is a bleak, shadow of its former self which now has all the hallmarks of a 20th-century Communist state in full purge effect!
Don’t worry if you were a fan of the previous Tumanbay cast all of the likely suspects are back including Gregor, crafty Cadali, and general Qulan who is still wonderfully defiant as ever. Manel another character favourite of mine returns as a rebel fighter cross between Lara Croft & Princess Leia which was quite cool to follow.
I really enjoyed the recap and detailed explanation for what happened to the character simply called ‘Boy’ from the first series. The lack of an in-depth explanation of what became of him within the podcast always left me wondering where he disappeared too. Of course, John & Mike have this covered within the audiobook version satisfying my own very niche curiosity.
In my opinion, stand-out moments included the triumphant 36-minute battle led by general Qulan and his rabble of slaves against the hordes of Mya’s armies blow-for-blow account was exhilarating. The Stanley Kubrick Spartacus-styled slave uprising, and overthrowing of their captors whilst repairing a dam to halt an outbreak of plague was captivating to listen to.
The narration changes from the accomplished Clare Corbett to Peter Polycarpou for another masterclass in delivering multiple accents of slaves, sultans, and Cadali with ease. If this is the audiobook format of using different voice actors every novel then I am excited to see/hear who will be rocking the mike to narrate the third instalment.
I especially enjoyed being entertained by Peter’s vocal performance as the Opium addict puppet Sultan Madu who sounded like a stoned Keith Richards. Peters’s accent for Gregor making him sound slightly like Sir Michael Caine was hilarious in parts; I won’t use the blow your doors off metaphor don’t worry!
Okay, so I am a massive fan of the Tumanbay podcast and its audiobooks as you can probably tell. The in-depth writing partnership of Walker Dryden continues to take me on a rollercoaster of emotions, much like the final scene acted by Bob Hoskins in the cult classic film ‘The Long Good Friday’.
That specific scene where Bob’s character is driven away by the IRA to meet his maker before the credits roll (remember that?)
Well, that range of emotions expressed visually by Hoskins which you witness him go through – surprise, denial, frustration, anger, and finally realisation is the exact same journey this audiobook took me on. That journey could also be yours if you choose to download the audiobook!
The overall writing lends a certain patina to the hallowed city of Tumanbay which I thoroughly enjoyed listening to; bravo!
Just like a Swiss army knife ‘The Poison Throne’ really has everything tucked away ready to unfold for you the willing listener. This audiobook is absolutely dynamite and adopts very non-linear writing which will appeal to those who know the world is far from PG-rated.
So after reading this review of ‘The Poison Throne’ I really hope you are contemplating having your podcast reviewed by Tea in the Sahara. As you can see my reviews are not written in a cookie-cutter uniformed style as plenty of work goes on in the background with every review delivered; which I really hope you the reader appreciates.
So people if you have enjoyed this particular review or any of my others please do consider doing a few kind things to help me grow my website. Please consider leaving a small comment in the comments section below each review, and whilst there why not like the review (it all helps!)
These simple actions on your behalf really go a long way to help promote what I love to do, collaborate with talented writers, and hopefully write an EPIC review, or two along the way. Well, that’s the cunning plan anyway.
You can reach me via my contacts page.
Before I sign off one more thing, if you feel there is a podcast out there that needs a plug please do let me know by getting in touch. For further Tea in the Sahara reviews & tomfoolery please check out my other reviews. Until next time folks cheers, Kev.