Book Review: Alex Archer’s The Third Caliph

Posted June 21, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Alex Archer’s The Third Caliph

The Third Caliph


Alex Archer

urban fantasy in Paperback edition that was published by Gold Eagle Books on January 2, 2013 and has 320 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon., Kobo.
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Other books by this author which I have reviewed include The Soul Stealer, Gabriel's Horn, The Golden Elephant, Swordsman's Legacy, Polar Quest, Eternal Journey, Sacrifice, Seeker's Curse, Footprints, Paradox, The Spirit Banner, Sacred Ground, The Bone Conjurer, Phantom Prospect, Restless Soul, False Horizon, The Other Crowd, Tear of the Gods, The Oracle's Message, Cradle of Solitude, Labyrinth, Fury's Goddess, Magic Lantern, Library of Gold, Matador's Crown, City of Swords, The Babel Codex, Sunken Pyramid, Staff of Judea

Fortieth in the Rogue Angel urban fantasy series revolving around Annja Creed, independent archeologist and avenger of wrongs.

My Take

And again, a conflict and a separation in the faith caused by greed and a desire for power. It’s the same thing today when Almodarresi confronts Thabit about his operations. This story is an elaborate set-up with lots of layers, just so the CIA can get the bad guys. I do love how surprised MacKenzie is with Annja when they get into their first kerfuffle.

I can feel Annja’s pain when the raiders rip artifacts out of the ground. It’s never been about the monetary value of what she finds, but always about what those artifacts and where they are found in the ground that can reveal the secrets about their past.

I love the images this line pulls up:
“Taken all together, the caravan looked as if it had marched through time and sucked in travelers from across the centuries.”

I found it disconcerting that when Annja finally gets to a phone and gets through to Doug that she never once mentions the Bedouin. Although Doug’s obsession with the skeleton being a zombie cracked me up. He is such a kid with a need for the sensational.

It’s black ops action, tagine and baklava, along with history and Moroccan culture. Rescues, chases, and ambushes galore — wait’ll you get to Fes. I swear the population must have doubled with all the different covert ops teams in town! I don’t blame Annja for not trusting either side! The sound of that vampire club in Berlin was pretty interesting as well.

Hmmm, good point about not trusting a man trying to buy you off after he’s already tried to kill you.

And we get even more of Garin’s back history.

Oh, too funny! With all the technology, satellites, etc. that the CIA and MI6 has, they find Annja through tweets and blog sightings, lol.

The Story

It’s a cave-in that reveals an unexpected burial that leads to slavery and deaths. It also brings a troupe of Bedouin raiders into the camp and sends Annja fleeing with a grappling hook.

She’s between a rock and a hard place with the police who won’t go after the kidnappers, but won’t allow anyone else to rescue them either.

The Characters

Annja Creed is an independent archeologist and a co-host for the television show Chasing History’s Monsters which gives her the freedom to join other people’s expeditions. She also carries the reconstituted sword once carried by Joan of Arc — and she’s starting to think the sword has a mind of its own. Bart is a police friend of Annja’s who is based in New York City.

Professor David Smythe is heading up a dig in Morocco. Theresa Templeton is a grad assistant from Harvard. Cory Burcell is a BBC cameraman filming the dig. There are a number of muqannis, Moroccan irrigation diggers, including the fifteen- or sixteen-year-old Souad, Nadim‘s son.

Doug Morrell is the producer of Chasing History’s Monsters. Samir is the man who gives Annja a lift. Inspector Khouri is with the Moroccan police in Erfoud. Dr. Ernest Woolcot specializes in Middle Eastern history at Harvard. He’s hoping to co-author a paper with Annja. Miriam is Woolcot’s very patient wife. Houssine is an informer looking for the highest price. Dr. Khadija Zayd is an historian at Aligarh Muslim University’s Centre of Advanced Study.

The CIA and associates
CIA Section Chief Brawley Hendricks has been after Thabit for years. Craig Morley is the CIA liaison reporting to Congress and the Joint Chiefs. Swan Team is a handpicked group sent after Thabit: Special Agent Paul Gentry, a bright kid with a wife, Heather, and their newborn baby, Jenny.

The Curtain Bar is where Hendricks finds Sophie, an off-the-books operator. Rafe MacKenzie is one of her people and a bit psychopathic (please, people, read up on the “Word Confusion: Psychopath versus Sociopath“; I reckon Rafe is more sociopath..). Yahya is a South African orphan MacKenzie took in and trained. Felix Rallison is MI6.

Garin Braden was one of Jeanne d’Arc’s protectors along with Roux, the knight he served as a squire. When Joan was burned at the stake and her sword broken, the two became immortal. Both will do what they can to keep Annja safe. Inga is Garin’s personal assistant. Eniko is an about-to-be ex-girlfriend. Sepp Walker is one of Garin’s primary researchers. Chandra is a rhythm-and-blues singer who takes up with Garin. Qurtubi is his father’s son in every respect. DragonTech is Garin’s private security team.

Mustafa is the leader of the Bedouin raiders.

Habib ibn Thabit is a terrorist with an ulterior motive — covering up a family mistake. He gets around in Shabanna, his yacht, which is captained by Abu. Sanjay is his driver. Abdul Saidi of the Polisario Front is a man with whom he’s doing business. Rachid is a chief source of information. Mirza Almodarresi seems to be one of Thabit’s backers. Hamez leads the team that is after Annja. Rasool Bahanor has been with Thabit the longest and tries to bring him to his senses.

Abdelilah Karam is the author of the scroll, a famed historian in the Ridda Wars, a.k.a., the Wars of Apostasy which had been headed up by Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s father-in-law. It’s said that Karam knows the secret that can reunite Islam.

Upon Muhammad’s death, a battle arose for the caliphate: his third and favorite wife, Aisha bint Abu Bakr, wanted to appoint her choice, and many believed her claim to the true teachings of Muhammad were more legitimate than Ali ibn Abd Munaf, a cousin and son-in-law to Muhammad who becomes the fourth caliph. The battle between them, sparked by the assassination of Uthman ibn Affan, would be the first in which Muslims fought Muslims and would eventually give rise to the Shiites and Sunnis.

Ali ibn Abi Talid assumed the caliphate and was killed by Abd-al-Rahman ibn Muljam, a Kharijite assassin. I can’t tell from the story what the timing is. Muawiya had the first caliphate after Muhammad’s death. Adi ibn Musafir al-Umaw was a descendant of Marwan ibn al-Hakim, the fourth Umayyad caliph.

The University of Al-Karaouine in Fes was built in 859 and is considered the oldest continually operating academic school in the world. Professor Mahfoud Daoudi is the librarian there and will assist Annja. Ata ibn Wassaf was a popular illustrator for Moroccan books, and his father illustrated the peacock angel. Wassaf’s son, Iskandar ibn Silahdar, is a fan of Annja’s show.

Philip Gardiner was an Englishman collecting Karam’s works; for some reason he sailed (and died) with the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Gardiner’s work caught the eye of a Syrian historian, Dr. Ulker Bozdag, who is fascinated by the Melek Taus, the Order of the Peacock Angel, a.k.a., Shaytan, which was founded by Musafir. Iblis is a jinn who became the leader of the fallen angels, the Devil. He also has a scroll written by Allal Khaldun.

A khettara is an irrigation well or tunnel.

The Cover and Title

The cover is composed of the golden browns of past covers with Annja standing amidst the ruins and wearing desert camouflage pants and a safari shirt, her hair flying in the wind, crouched with one booted foot up on a block, an ancient Arabic helmet at her feet, as she winds up with her sword.

The title is who Thabit’s ancestor was supposed to kill, The Third Caliph.