Daniel Silva has followed up his terrific trilogy with another outstanding novel. "Prince of Fire" brings back Gabriel Allon, a gifted art restorer and master spy who has settled down in Venice with the lovely Chiara, whom he hopes to marry. After a tempestuous life filled with tragedy and violence, Allon is trying to find the peace of mind that has thus far eluded him. A huge bomb destroys the Israeli embassy in Rome and sinks any hope that Allon can live a placid life free of bloodshed.
Ari Shamron, who is now seventy-five, was once the head of Israel's secret service and Gabriel's mentor. He is now a special advisor to Israel's prime minister. Shamron visits Gabriel in Italy and informs him that Palestinian terrorists have uncovered Gabriel's true identity and may be targeting him for assassination. He urges Gabriel to come out of retirement and lead a team that will hunt down a Palestinian mastermind named Khaled al-Khalifa. This man is believed to be responsible not only for the attack in Rome, but also for two earlier blasts in Buenos Aires and Istanbul that killed over one hundred Jews.
"Prince of Fire" is intricate, fast-paced, and absorbing. Without sermonizing or pontificating, Silva explores the politics of hatred in the Middle East. He skillfully traces the trail of terror that has left this region in a constant state of fear and mourning for so many years. As we have come to expect from Silva, he writes exciting, suspenseful, and unpredictable action sequences that contain fascinating details about how spies operate.
All of Silva's characters are well drawn, but Gabriel Allon is in a class by himself. He has suffered great personal losses from which he can never completely recover. Although he has repeatedly hunted down and slaughtered the enemies of his people, Gabriel remains a compassionate man who values human life. In this book, he is confronted with a terrifying moral dilemma, and one particular scene in which he must make a split-second, life or death decision is simply electrifying. "Prince of Fire" proves, once again, that Daniel Silva has mastered the art of writing espionage thrillers with intelligence, depth, and heart.
An absolutely fabulous story and without a doubt the most enjoyable book I have read in a long time. Daniel Silva has proven once again that he is a gifted storyteller and one of the best at international espionage and intrigue.
This fascinating Silva book is another in the Gabriel Allon series. For those of you who don't know, Allon is the physically underwhelming yet world renowned art restorer, who lives a double life in the Israeli Intelligence Service. Once "activated" Allon has no peer as the secret protector of Israeli security. Allon finds the really bad guys, the ones that nobody else wants to track. Allon goes where all others fear to tread and brings the bad guys to justice, whether that means the justice of the court, the justice of some form of imprisonment, or the justice of the assassin's bullet.
In this book Allon reluctantly abandons his precious work in Vienna, at the Chapel of San Giavanni Crisostomo, where he has spent months on the restoration of a famous Bellini altarpiece. His mission is a search for the terrorist mastermind behind a recent horrific and deadly bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Rome. All indications are that there is much more death and destruction to follow, so Gabriel is in a rush to find this terrorist before he strikes again. Along the way he learns that the life of his target and his own life are inextricably interwoven. The chase, which does not disappoint, covers a lot of ground and takes the reader from Rome, to Venice, Cairo, London, Paris and Jerusalem, and along the way Silva gives a factual history lesson from 1910 to the present, on the struggles between the Palestinians and the Israelis. This history lesson alone is almost worth of the price of the book!
I have read the comparisons others have made to Silva's writing and I will add a comparison of my own. In Silva I see an early Ludlum. I certainly feel the same sort of thrill reading Silva that I did more than 25 years ago reading Ludlum. Silva's books are every bit as exciting, the plots are equal to or better than Ludlum when he was at his best. Silva has my unqualified recommendation; you simply can not go wrong reading one of his books!
In his fourth novel-adventure, art restorer Gabriel Allon is recalled to action by the Israeli intelligence service for which he once worked. A massive truck bomb at the Israeli embassy in Rome and the shooting of fleeing victims has left fifty-two dead. When the Israelis obtain a computer disk from the terrorists' house outside of Milan, they discover recent photos of Gabriel Allon and his lover, notes about his real identity, and details of his sanctioned killing of Black September members, along with the second in command in the PLO. Yassir Arafat himself ordered reprisals against Allon, which resulted in the death of Allon's son and the maiming of his wife in a car bombing.
Believing the Rome bombing to be connected to the bombings of a Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in 1994 and the bombing of Istanbul's main synagogue in 2003, Allon and his mentor, Ari Shamron, an advisor to the prime minister of Israel, soon focus on three generations of a single family. Sheikh Asad led the Arab Revolt in 1936, unleashing deadly attacks all over Israel, until he was assassinated on orders of Yitzhak Rabin. The Sheik's son, Sabri, a friend of Yassir Arafat, accepted his father's terrorist mantle, until he was eliminated. Sabri's orphaned son, young Khaled, adopted by Yassir Arafat, is believed to be behind the recent spate of bombings of Jewish buildings around the world. Allon is now assigned to find and execute him.
The novel, the fourth in the Allon series, is filled with familiar main characters from the past, both in Allon's personal life and in his life as part of the Israeli security service. These familiar "faces" and the numerous references to Allon's previous adventures add depth and important historical background to this novel. The past relationships of characters and their interconnections are written clearly so new readers will not become confused, as Allon and Shamron try to find Khaled and prevent another attack, this time in France.
Silva is a particularly efficient novelist, writing in an exciting narrative style which keeps the tension high while he explores contemporary issues. He is a master at juggling subplots and developing his characters, especially his flawed main character, Gabriel Allon. His inclusion of real people, such as Itzhak Rabin and Yassir Arafat, gives immediacy to the action, and his background information on the continuing war between the Arabs and Jews for the land in Palestine gives a sense of context to this long-standing enmity. Beautifully paced, the novel offers glimpses of life in contemporary Israel and the historic reasons for the violence there. Mary Whipple
on March 15, 2005
What lens do we use to examine the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Usually, it's the evening news or morning newspaper. Boom. Bang. Bleed. After a while, all of the killing seems to blend together into an enormous, sad gray cloud of suffering. Reprisals follow upon reprisals until it all seems like a pointless exercise in tribal violence. As Gandhi said: "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
What we really need is a new method of understanding -- a new lens -- that will enable us to see this conflict in its deeper hues. Something that will connect the past with the present in a way that is not transparently self-righteous.
That's what Daniel Silva has achieved in his remarkable new novel -- "Prince of Fire." He has taken a somewhat worn-out literary genre (the spy novel) and turned it into a powerful new lens for understanding the current conflict. Anyone who cares about the future of Israel and the hope for a Palestinian state should read this extremely well-written and sophisticated novel. (If you need a quick plot summary, read one of the other reviews on this page.)
Now, anew, we can see how the history of Zionism intersects with the Shoah and the subsequent founding of Israel. Now, anew, we can see how the suffering of the Palestinian people has been exploited by Arab leaders for cynical political purposes. Now, finally, we can see that there is no single "black and white" solution -- or source of blame. Not even Arafat.
While Silva is clearly a defender of Israel and the Jewish people, he is not without doubt and empathy for the other side. His reluctant spy-hero, Gabriel Allon, continually challenges his own assumptions and refuses to accept easy explanations.
One of the Palestinian characters in Prince of Fire, an older man who has seen too much, says: "Always living in the past -- this is our disease." Read this book to understand why the past still has a strangle hold on so many people today.
on March 3, 2005
In his fifth novel featuring the art restorer and Israeli sometime assassin, Gabriel Allon, author Daniel Silva delivers another gripping chapter in the difficult life of his central character. The title comes from a comment that was made by Allon's mentor, Ari Shamron when Allon returned as a young man from his first assassination on behalf of Israel. Allon's black hair had gone gray at the temples as a result of a traumatic reaction to the event, which caused Shamron to call them "smudges of ash on the prince of fire."
In this book, following an explosion at the Israeli embassy in Rome it is discovered that the Palestinians have uncovered Allon's identity, his bloddy past and have marked him for elimination. Moving swiftly on this news Allon is extracted from Venice and returned to Israel.
An analysis of a series of attacks that have been carried out prior to Rome reveals that a master terrorist is at work in planning and carrying them out and Allon is detailed to determine the man's identity and to track him down and eliminate him.
Too much detail in describing how the puzzle is solved and the obstacles that are put in the way would spoil the story, but suffice it to say that once the man is identified, Allon's troubles are only begining.
Silva does his usual masterful job of weaving this fictional story around the current events in the Middle East, utilizing some real characters to give weight to the tale and also educating the reader with some historical facts concerning the creation of the State of Israel and how the Palestinian problem came to be.
The good news for the reader is that there appears to be more to come, but getting current with the adventures of Gabriel Allon is quite sufficient for now.
on March 9, 2006
The prince of fire is back in this intriguing story from Daniel Silva. Gabriel Allon is living in Venice, doing his art restoration work, and planning to marry the beautiful Chiara. His old friend and mentor from the Israeli secret service, Ari Shamron, recruits him once again to do a job for the Office--investigate the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Rome. Gabriel reluctantly agrees to return to Israel and be re-employed by the Office. Gabriel and his team soon learn the guy behind the bombing is the son and grandson of two notorious Arab terrorists. Khaled was allegedly taken in by Yassir Arafat when his father was murdered and is now believed to be carrying on the family's tradition of terror. Gabriel sets out to find Khaled and, of course, runs into major troubles.
The story is involved and I won't go into any great details here or spoil it for you. It's a somewhat sad, somewhat happy time for Gabriel and we may read more about him in the future. Suffice it to say, this is a great story and good history lesson (much of it is based on fact). Don't miss this one! Especially if you've read the previous Allon stories.
on April 12, 2005
In light of Middle East conflicts, how does one write a credible novel that highlights both sides of the issue while remaining true to the art of suspense? How does an author create memorable characters and unforgettable settings?
For answers, we have only to turn to Daniel Silva. After reading his last two books, both beautifully crafted, I was expecting somewhat of a letdown. Surely, he couldn't raise the bar yet again. But I was wrong. "Prince of Fire" starts with a bombing in Italy that eventually pulls Gabriel Allon back into action. Despite his intelligence and abilities, he finds himself little more than a pawn in the hands of his employees--and in the hands of his enemies as well. He faces issues of loyalty and fidelty with his handicapped wife; he struggles with his own life of violence and revenge; and he tries to understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The results are both moving and nail-biting.
With each book in his series following Gabriel Allon ("Allon" being Hebrew for "oak tree," Silva tells us), we find deeper layers to Silva's characters and their conflicts--emotionally, spiritually, and politically. Perhaps the most impressive thing, however, is the author's economy of words. He conveys so much with so little. Like his protagonist, he is an artist, painting in hues full of richness and subtlety. And in conclusion, Gabriel, like his newest project, "Daniel in the Lion's Den," finds himself seeking mental peace while surrounded by strife on all sides.
Once again, I'm afraid to read Silva's next book. How can the man maintain this level of excellence? I don't know, but I'll be on pins and needles waiting to find out!
Does that make sense? I don't read a lot of thrillers but I really like those that are tense, fast-paced with clever plots that keep the book moving along well. Like a good movie does and this one certainly fits into that class. I was drawn into this story from the first chapter and it never let me go with its fascination and well-modeled characters and intricate plot. Add to that the exotic settings and twists taken right out of our everyday headlines and this makes for one fantastic book.
This is another Gabriel Allon thriller. Allon is an Israeli secret agent, posing as an art restorer in Venice when he is contacted by his mentor Ari Shamron, former head of The Israeli secret service. Terrorists have bombed and destroyed the Israeli embassy in rome and Shamron wants Allon to track down the terrorists. Further attacks are sure to follow and Allon assembles a team of younger agents to assist him to capture the terrorist mastermind, Khaled, who just happens to be the adopted son of Yassir Arafat, and who seeks vengeance on the enemies of Palestine. Thus begins a tense and exciting game of cat and mouse as Allon and his team track down Khaled before he can cause further death and destruction.
The book is not only a wonderful thriller but also quite a lesson in history about israel and Palestine as well. Daniel Silva deftly handles all the plot twists and sub-plots and gives us a cast of intelligent and lively characters. This was my first book I've read by Mr. Silva but it sure won't be the last. Highly recommended!
Daniel Silva writes his Gabriel Allon novels with a controlled fury - no surprise given his focus on the Holocaust and its modern fallout. Gabriel Allon may be a reserved, stoic character, but Silva is an impassioned writer whose seeming genre, the "popcorn thriller," masks a powerful voice.
Allon, leading Renaissance art restorer and Israeli assassin, continues to age. That does not mean that he still cannot operate in the field with the best of them. That's a good thing for Allon, because he is up against possibly his most lethal, brilliant villain yet - Khaled, scion of one of the Middle East's most warlike and terrifying families. But Khaled is no simple terrorist - living in total anonymity as a semi-famous French archaelogist, Khaled can strike anywhere, at any time.
He chooses to do so out the outset of the novel, wiping out the Israeli embassy in Rome, along with several innocent bystanders. And soon Allon is back on the hunt, using craft and detection to get his man.
In the past, Silva has looked to Europe's past to fuel his rage. Whether it be Switzerland, the Vatican, or Austria, Silva has usually picked one European nation and attacked its hypocrisy over its role in the Holocaust. While Silva does a fair share of exoriating the French over their current position regarding Israel, in "The Prince of Fire," Silva targets one Yassir Arafat for his rage - the Palestinian people are not to blame for the current state of war between the two nations, Silva argues. Rather, it is the hate-filled Palestinian leadership, lead by Arafat, who has stubbornly resisted every offer for peace simply because "he wants it all.
Arafat, who died shortly after publication of "The Prince of Fire," is depicted as a despicable liar and villain. Not only has he perpetuated the war against the Jews out of racist hatred, he personally ordered the bomb that killed Allon's son and destroyed the mind of his beloved wife, Leah. This was not a bomb meant for Allon - Arafat wanted Allon to suffer, so he went after his family. It's hard to imagine a more contemptible decision by a political leader.
"The Prince of Fire" is a melancholy book for a thriller. Allon's wife, Leah, gets used as bait to bring Allon into the middle of a Palestinian plot to bomb Paris - and to blame Israel for it. Along the way, Allon meets several key players in the terror plot, not least being a beautiful young woman who willingly becomes a living bomb at the behest of Khaled. That Silva makes it a page-turner is a testament to his skill, if not his subject matter.
So if you are of the school that Israel causes more problems in the Middle East than anyone else, you're probably not going to like "The Prince of Fire" - it's clear that Silva has Israel in the "good guys" camp on that question. (But hopefully you've figured that out already with the other books in this series.) However, if you are neutral on the whole Israeli-Palestinian situation, or are an unabashed pro-Israeli booster, you're going to love "The Prince of Fire."
on February 26, 2005
Since the very creation of Israel, unrest has kept the land uneasy. Emotions run high on both sides. Dispossessed landowners never give up the fight for what they believe is rightly theirs. The bloody course of action they have taken slaughters the innocent daily. ("Count the sirens....You can tell how bad it is by the number of ambulances they call.")
When a bomb destroys the Israeli embassy in Rome, intelligence suggests that the mastermind behind the massive assault is the grandson of an Arab terrorist whose hatred for the Jews took seed as far back as 1910. The family story is compelling, the shaping of the terrorist explained, almost understandable. With such radically disparate views, the eternal strife between Palestine and Israel seems inevitable.
Mario Delvecchio, a man many Daniel Silva fans met in A DEATH IN VIENNA, has come to the end of his career --- at least, his cover career --- as an art restorer in Venice. Born Gabriel Allon, he must now return home to Israel and assume several new identities to accomplish his task: finding and stopping this leader of terrorists. He chases Khaled --- "avenger of past wrongs, sword of Palestine" --- the elusive and brilliant murderer of hundreds, a man who assumes as many aliases as Gabriel himself, and a man who has the blessing of Yasir Arafat. Pitting Gabriel's genius against that of Khaled reveals a nearly even match. Both men have teams who fervidly believe in their cause. Both men have great means to back them up. But each man also has his Achilles heel, a passionate woman who will wage her own fight for her lover. However, the scales might be tipped by the wild-card factor of Gabriel's wife, badly burned by a car bomb in Vienna many years before. Silent since that day, she is now arousing new interest.
Working with the best in Israeli intelligence, Gabriel's team hatches a plot to take Khaled out. The man's known acquaintances are placed under surveillance, his entire life is studied, and he is set up for execution. But nothing ever is as simple as it appears on paper. As Gabriel puts in motion the steps to eliminate Khaled, it seems he just might have a traitor in his own organization. And they have very little time, for they know when the next spectacular attack will be --- within a few short weeks. To Khaled, this date and hour has profound significance. Striking at that precise time will once again avenge past wrongs. It literally comes down to the exciting race against the clock.
From the genesis of a frightening new genre, the terrorist thriller, comes this novel so explosive as to rocket its author to the top of his class. Extraordinarily relevant in today's world, Daniel Silva's newest masterpiece will delight --- and utterly chill --- his readers.
--- Reviewed by Kate Ayers