How exciting to be taking part in this blog tour on its opening day!
Ben longs to be prime minister one day. But with no political connections, he is about to crash out of a Masters degree with no future ahead. So when by chance he becomes fast friends with a young Arab prince, and is offered a job in his government, he jumps at the chance to get on the political ladder.
Amal dreads the throne. And with Ben’s help he wants to reform his country, steering it onto a path towards democracy. But with the king’s health failing, revolutionaries in the streets, and terrorism threatening everyone, the country is ready to tear itself apart.
Alone in a hostile land, Ben must help Amal weigh what is best against what is right, making decisions that will risk his country, his family, and his life.
This short book is the story of two idealistic young men. One, Ben, is a British student with political ambitions, the other an Arab prince, Amal. They meet at an inter-university debate, with the subject under debate being the very pertinent ‘ideology is dead’. Here and elsewhere in the novella, there’s some very interesting philosophical and political discussion.
Ben rather suddenly finds himself recruited as Amal’s advisor, but mainly friend, in Amal’s home of Argolis. The differences he encounters between his own culture and this one are sharply observed and create the atmosphere of somewhere fascinating, yet also menacing and obdurate. It’s also vicious, with public executions and other extreme punishments being meted out somewhat enthusiastically.
Just as suddenly, Amal finds himself the new king after the untimely and suspicious death of his older brother and then, soon after, his father. The moment has come for Amal to instigate that ‘ benevolent monarchy’ that he’s dreamed of. Ben determines to help him do exactly that.
However, there are just two of them fighting for change, and one only half-heartedly. Amal feels obliged to honour his father’s legacy, one very much centred on keeping power at all costs, and the young king has a stubborn entourage who like things the way they are. Rebels choose this unsettled moment to start causing trouble, and clearly there’s someone close to Amal who’s feeding them information. Unfortunately, some important people decide it must be Ben. His and Amal’s hopes collapse, with fatal yet inevitable consequences. Throughout the book, as on the cover, there are reflections of Shelley’s sonnet ‘Ozymandias’, which is one both young men know.
is a fast-paced and exciting book, yet there’s so much to think about too. Who, for example, actually is the benevolent dictator in the end? Amal? Or is it Ben, who has naively tried to instil Western values in his Arab friend? It’s all too easy to assume you are right and try to influence other to your own way of thinking.
There’s a strong and moving theme of friendship throughout too – of nominal friends and true friends, of superficiality and loyalty. So if you like a page-turner that also has you pausing and contemplating amidst the action, then this is most definitely a book for you.
Tom Trott was born in Brighton. He first started writing at Junior School, where he and a group of friends devised and performed comedy plays for school assemblies, much to the amusement of their fellow pupils. Since leaving school and growing up to be a big boy, he has written a short comedy play that was performed at the Theatre Royal Brighton in May 2014 as part of the Brighton Festival; he has written Daye’s Work, a television pilot for the local Brighton channel, and he has won the Empire Award (thriller category) in the 2015 New York Screenplay Contest. He is the proverbial Brighton rock, and currently lives in the city with his wife.
Social Media Links – www.twitter.com/tjtrott, www.facebook.com/tomtrottbooks, www.tomtrott.com
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