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Jim Hutson-Wiley's long career in international trade and project finance involved extensive travel and residence in the Near East and Europe. He graduated with a BSFS from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service and received an MBA from the Wharton School. He currently lives in Miami, Florida.
Soul-searching conflicts and tattered loyalties abound in this evocative 12th-century page-turner. Sequel to The Sugar Merchant, James Hutson-Wiley’s The Travels of Ibn Thomas picks up in the early 12th-century, some ten years after the events of the series opener. Following the tense and twisting tale of Thoma, son of the Thomas who featured in The Sugar Merchant, the scene is set by Thoma’s involving first-person account of the discrimination endured during his Christian education in England (Thomas had vowed to raise his son in the Islamic faith): “Not only was my appearance strange, with my darker skin and black hair, I was ignorant of scripture and did not know the words of the chants we sang at mass. Worse, I spoke Latin with an unusual accent. The others spoke either Norman or Saxon. In my early years, I was not proficient in either language. Thus, my fellow students rarely spoke to me.” No wonder, then, that Thoma welcomes being sent to an esteemed medical school in Sicily. Thoma’s journey comes at a time of great change, which is finely evoked with a tremendous sense of place, and fascinating details of political and religious conflict. These wider conflicts are lived-out by Thoma himself, not least when he’s asked to take up his father’s role as a spy. Teeming with vividly-drawn characters, among them pirates, assassins and crusaders, and driven by Thoma’s desire to discover what became of his father, and by his identity struggles, this is alive with intrigue and pacey adventure. Joanne Owen, A LoveReading Ambassador
Gosh this a fascinating little book, I really did feel as though I was discovering a forgotten manuscript. Translators notes greet you at the start, advising that a complete text from the 11th century has been found and translated using cryptology. Thomas Woodward describes his life from 1066 when he was taken in after a raid and trained to become a spy, through to 1098 when he explains his life and the decisions he has made to his son. James Hutson-Wiley has created a simple diary-like discourse, Thomas describes the world around him, in particular, the trade of goods, including sugar, with clarity. Stuffed full of interesting tidbits I sank into this world and galloped through the pages. The Sugar Merchant surprised me, I thoroughly enjoyed my sojourn to the 11th century and found a fluid, absorbing and worthwhile read.