Book Discovery: Lords of Misrule by Joel D. Hirst
Riveting from start to finish, Lords of Misrule is a must-read from a master storyteller, Joel D. Hirst.
Hate the sin, not the sinner.
Aliuf Ag Albachar is a thirteen-year-old Tuareg boy set to conquer the world. The fabled city of Timbuktu, off to the north of the Niger, will be his to rule one day. However, the Timbuktu his mother, Zeinabou, takes him to meet for the first time pales in comparison to the Timbuktu of legends, the grand city of Aliuf’s imagination. Before him, sitting at the edge of the Sahara is a dusty village made of mud and narrow alleys filled with potholes. There is no shining medina of great universities and libraries. The buildings are decrepit, old, and uninspiring. The people are restless and loud; an insufferable mess Aliuf is unaccustomed to. Hence, his prayer to Allah is reasonable by anyone’s standards: “God grant me this city one day, and I will give it to His glory.” Unknown to Aliuf, the fulfillment of his prayer is close at hand. All the pieces are in place that day in Timbuktu, like Salif, a boy not much older than Aliuf, but rougher around the edges. Salif is the catalysis waiting to happen, and their meeting marks the unraveling of a destiny.
Salif is no desert boy used to the life patiently dedicated to the sands and the stars. The dunes and the past call out to Aliuf; the future beckons Salif. Restless like the crowd of his town—or perhaps even more so—Salif stirs Aliuf’s coming of age, offering unsolicited new ideas to ponder on, new questions to mull over, and new adventures to crave.
For several years to come since meeting Salif, Aliuf suffers from the monotone of the oasis. The ways of the Tuareg and the beauty and wisdom of the Sahara become too predictable for him. The life of his clan is “utilitarian out of necessity, with minimal opportunity to contemplate the transcendental,” and Aliuf craves the chance at contemplation and believes in the ideals foreign to the Tuareg. He nurtures these silently until, unable to contain himself any longer, he leaves his mother and their oasis, favoring the now-thought-provoking medina of Timbuktu, hastening to the consummation of his destiny.
Free at last to explore his ideals, Aliuf learns from the most learned of men and set out to change the world one tribe, one oasis at a time. He turns a blind eye toward the injustice and indignity spawn by his now-extreme ideals, misruling the people he vowed to love and serve. In spite of his sacrifices, like losing his mother to the tribes and Azter marrying Salif, Aliuf holds steadfast in his belief that Allah will reward him and the world will be better off in the end. The means to such an end may not be as encouraging—not the murders, the betrayal of public trust, the rape of innocent children, the jihad—but the end will be justified nonetheless.
The end comes too soon for Aliuf. Down on his knees with a knife pointed at the back of his neck, finally, he examines his conscience and looks at the destruction he brought to his people. How did he stray too far away from his intentions? Undoubtedly, the Prophet did not ask for death and destruction. What kind of faith or religion demands the sacrifice of innocent lives? How did he lose sight of the real Utopia he was after all this time? When did he become the lord of misrule? Perhaps there is no forgiveness to be had, but he asks for it.
If you can forgive such a protagonist and examine his heart, when all is said and done, Aliuf is just a thirteen-year-old boy—full of hope and ideals, full of love for his redhead.
Yes, perhaps hate the sin, not the sinner.
Joel D. Hirst’s masterpiece is a worthy best-selling novel brimming with poignant lessons about idealism, culture, and religion. It begs us to examine the current state of the world today, a world so divided by different idealisms and misruled by many types of lords. Hirst uses language as flavorful and vibrant as the culture in the Sahara but without giving in to unnecessary theatrics. The result is an extremely satisfying literary experience.
Reviews and What Readers Say
This was not a book I was sure would interest me. I was very wrong! The writing transports you to the places and makes you feel as though you are with the people in these places. It has a story line that keeps you interested and the descriptive writing helps you visualize the story instead of just reading words on a page. The journey from boy into a man in search of his destiny and what roads his decisions lead him down. The consequences of those decisions are detailed very well and keep you enthralled. Joel's writing gives me a new perspective on different lifestyles and the roles that are played in these lives. The history, religion and beauty in this book are very well thought out. I highly recommend this book!
—Dallas, Amazon Client Review, Verified Purchase
Joel D. Hirst is an author that has done his research. He has managed to blend facts with the elements of fiction to create a work that both informs, and at the same time, inspires one to take a hard look at preconceived ideas and beliefs. I initially struggled with the unfamiliar names of people and places and had to do some research of my own to determine which parts of the book were fact; but I easily identified with the characters' feelings of pride, betrayal, and longing for more---the range of emotions and desires of every human. The question of why individuals would choose to adopt a jihadi mentality is one that I have pondered, and HIrst has provided a factual, yet entertaining avenue to learn more about the complex process that leads to such thinking. Although Hirst did not heavily stress the darker side of the Western influence that has colored the thoughts of many in the Middle East, his writing did prompt me to reflect upon the effects of our own nation's capitalist misdeeds in other parts of the world. After reading this, I am even more convinced that religions may have evolved in response to our needs for a higher power of goodness, but our innate sinful nature can distort the good into something terribly evil. Thank you, Mr. Hirst, for shedding light on an increasingly disturbing trend. I am inspired to learn more.!
—Marilyn, Amazon Client Review, Verified Purchase
I was really interested in this book from the first word, when we first meet the hero, Aliuf Ag Albachar. I immediately wanted to learn more about what the strange spelling meant, where he was from and what his story was. I quickly learned that he is a 13-year-old Muslim, a Tuareg from North Africa. That desire to learn more quickly was satisfied as the author describes in detail (not too much!) the cultural history and expectations of the people. Aliuf is destined to rule the city of Timbuktu, but we know that's not going to be easy. Throughout the story, Aliuf is punished, his pride is injured, and he is separated from everything that he loves. It is very much a hero's journey. He must learn about the history of Islam, and how he might make his dreams come through.He also must figure out how to redeem himself and accept or alter the consequences of the decisions he has made along the way. He tries, but he doesn't yet have the authority. Not even books are trusted in this world. All of these challenges of a boy trying to become a man being placed against the backdrop of the Sahara and a culture that we (in the West) don't really understand much makes it an interesting read. I can't give away the ending, but when it comes, Aliuf is happy, even if it's not what the reader might have wanted.!
—Serafina Mezzanotte, Amazon Client Review, Verified Purchase
Reviewed by Amy Alcott
Disclosure: This article is a personal endorsement of the professional reviewer. The BookWalker is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
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Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright. He was a Fellow in Residence at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Fellow in Human Freedom at the George W. Bush Institute. He is a graduate of Brandeis University. Visit Joel D Hirst Amazon's page at Joel D Hirst/Amazon