"In this sweeping yet precise epic, Ball has created a swashbuckler for urbane readers. His voice recalls, by turns, Michener and Clavell, Sir Richard Burton, and even Alexander Dumas...Empires of Sand is part Beau Geste, part A Tale of Two Cities."
Christian Science Monitor
"…one of those stories that would translate beautifully into a Merchant-Ivory film, except that a movie lasts only two hours and Ball's book promises two days of pure escapist enjoyment."
The Singapore Straits Times
"…a splendid adventure tale, a kind of Count of Monte Cristo in imperial dress, beginning in Paris in 1870 and racing off to the Sahara where two boys, once the best of friends, become bitter enemies. There are nomadic Tuareg, there is passionate love, rich writing, a vibrant sense of place, and much research worn lightly. This is a big book, full of incident, and precisely what I needed to pull me back from my despairing thought that I couldn't find anything that really sang. This is romance at its best."
The Boston Globe
"Lust, greed, revenge, rage and murder, sheiks and French aristocrats; war and bloody rampages, loyalties torn and love betrayed. Light the fires, secure the perimeters and tether the camels: You're in for a very bumpy journey throughout the pages of Empires of Sand, an old-fashioned, rip- roaring adventure…It's a fun romp, a sort of Gone With the Wind with sand dunes….
The San Diego Union-Tribune
"Ball's mammoth debut novel has all the necessary ingredients to allow the reader to while away the hours on a comfortable sofa as the nights darken earlier with the approach of fall. The story never lags….This may be Ball's first novel, but it is expertly told and leaves a lasting impression."
The Washington Post
"Reminiscent of Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth...Fast-paced and straightforward, the story hurtles toward its climax...[Ball's] storytelling has succeeded grandly, producing a novel of epic proportions, a sweeping tale of love, treachery, greed, and passion against an imposing backdrop of history and place."
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Lots of adventure, romance and swashbuckle in this novel that cries out to be filmed."
The Dallas Morning News
"...a thrilling story that enslaves you from the first page. Empires of Sand is a fat book; the kind that busy reviewers dread reading. But once you start this one, you'll drive toward the conclusion like a thirsty man toward an oasis.
The Boulder Daily Camera
"This summer, several excellent first novels have swept readers back to a different time and place. Empires of Sand is one of the best..."
"Bravo!...I devoured it in two days....When I was a kid I loved being swept across oceans by great spellbinding reads like Mutiny on the Bounty and Seven Pillars of Wisdom. David Ball's Empires of Sand rates a spot on that same shelf. It's old-fashioned in the best sense—literate, thematically ambitious, scholarly and swashbuckling at the same time. The thinking-man's page-turner....Clearly Mr. Ball ... knows the Sahara, the Paris of the Prussian siege, the world of the nomadic Tuareg. He writes with the joy of an author who loves his material and is in absolute command of it."
"Ball writes with a traveler's sense of place and a journalist's penchant for detail. The book's second half, set in the Sahara...is so vivid it leaves a phantom grit on your skin."
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The Denver Post
"This impressive debut, a mammoth tale of war, romance, treachery and coming-of-age, is set in 19th-century Paris and the spectacular expanse of the Sahara desert...Ball skillfully develops a core group of complex characters within two colorful families....The diverse customs and rivalries of nomadic tribes and fascinating tidbits of historical lore are woven deftly into the tale, each subplot pulsing with luxuriant detail....Well-traveled on five continents, Ball transforms his fascination with the Sahara and its exotic landscape, history and culture into an exciting, action-packed epic that will appeal to history buffs, thrill-seekers, travel enthusiasts, and romance fans."
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Ball’s debut, intricately plotted and beautifully written, is a saga of love, betrayal, adventure and despair that will delight all readers, especially those who thrilled to Beau Geste."
"This is a sensational novel! David Ball writes with extraordinary passion, enthusiasm, and skill. The opening scene with the wild boar is brilliant, and it just gets better after that."
"History roars to life in this vibrant tapestry of family bonds, personal honor, and duty. As Paris falls under siege of the Prussian army in 1870, young cousins Paul and Moussa DeVries realize even the Prussians aren't enough to keep them from having to go to school. Paul, the son of Jules DeVries, a French officer, and his wife, Elisabeth, plays at being a soldier like his father and fits in well with his classmates. Moussa, heir to Count Henri DeVries and his wife, Serena, a noblewoman of the Hoggar Tuareg of the Sahara, dreads school because his teacher, a nun, is determined to make him into a God-fearing Christian instead of a heathen wastrel. The cousins' parallel but very different worlds of school and play ultimately serve as microcosms that foreshadow their futures. As the story unfolds, Ball relates the terrible events that lead to the cousins being separated for more than a decade only to meet again at gunpoint in the harsh Saharan sands. In that final encounter, they stand on blood-spattered ground on opposing sides in a tangled conflict--Paul in the uniform of France and Moussa attired in the blue veil and dress of the Tuareg. As they face each other garbed as enemies but family still, conspirators plot behind their backs to ensure their deaths for the sake of the estate and title of the DeVries' holdings. Ball's magnificent historical panorama is sure to be in high demand."
"What a find! David Ball's first novel packs the wallop of a good old-fashioned adventure movie, with historic sweep to please any James Michener fan. The action starts with a wounded wild boar's attack on two French boys (convincingly told from the points of view of the boar, the boys--Paul and Moussa--the terrified mom, and an evil bishop who watches and prevents his coachman from shooting the beast). The pace never slackens as the scenes flash past: invasion and class war in the streets and underground quarryways of Paris during the 1870 siege, moonlit sneak attacks in the desert the Arabs call "the Land of Thirst and Fear," and an epic French attempt to drive a railroad through the Sahara--a mad plan opposed by the dunes and their no less implacable inhabitants, the Tuareg.
The Tuareg are the coolest--they're known as the blue men because they wear head-to-toe wraparound indigo-dyed clothes that scarily obscure their faces and stain their skin. Their rivals call them blue devils, and they have lots of rivals. Even though their dads are brothers, the French boys are fated to fight as tribal rivals in Saharan nomad's land because Moussa has a Tuareg mother. His dad, Count Henri deVries, crash-landed his balloon at her feet, and she followed him back to Paris. Racial oppression and bad bishop behavior provoke justifiable homicide at the Paris Opera, occasioning a hairsbreadth balloon escape and southern adventures too numerous to enumerate here. The prose is purple but handsome, the plot pulpy and propulsive. Check out these sentences: "He fell to her from the sky"; "Bashaga's howl haunted them until it was swallowed by the wind"; "As Moussa's stabbing knife pushed up through to his brain, Abdul ben Henna's last thoughts were of revenge." If these make you burn to read on, read on! You won't be disappointed."
Tim Appelo of Amazon.com
"Historical fiction often includes elements of romance, war, and family feuding, but rarely are they woven together as skillfully as in David Ball's impressive, swashbuckling debut novel, Empires of Sand. Beginning in Paris in 1866, just prior to the city's siege during the Franco-Prussian War, this adventurous tale follows the lives of noble-born cousins Michel (Moussa) and Paul deVries from the chateaux of the Parisian aristocracy to the Saharan desert, where fate will pit them against each other."
Fiction and Literature from barnesandnoble.com
"No Michener, this guy."
A reader review from Amazon.com