Review by Don Sloan
Treachery, murderous plots, and brutal warfare between several of the world’s oldest kingdoms are brilliantly brought to life in Return to Babylon, the latest installment of the Orfeo saga by standout author Murray Lee Eiland, Jr.
Orfeo, Clarice, and Daryush are joined by a new hero, Cyrus, as they match wits with a wonderfully complex character named Zenaida, who is prepping the storied empire of Babylon for another go at ancient greatness and world domination.
After surviving a vigorous attempt on his life by Zenaida’s henchmen, Orfeo decides to travel to Babylon along with Clarice to deal with the Empress himself rather than await new death squads. As they make their way stealthily toward the kingdom, however, he is recognized and is forced to slip away without even telling Clarice where he’s gone or why.
Meanwhile Cyrus is learning the ropes of being a spy and road warrior on behalf of Daryush, turning eventually to horse trading as a cover for his shadowy activities. Upon reuniting with Daryush, the older man gives him a pep talk that later proves to be prophetic:
“You will not be one of the nameless men who till the fields or simply stand guard in a palace, but you will write your name boldly on your time, be it short or long.”
By a stroke of fate, Cyrus hooks up with Orfeo, and the storied hero again demonstrates his mastery of military tactics by conquering an army many times the size of the one he, by another stroke of fate, temporarily commands.
Times being what they are, he accepts the local king’s offer to permanently head the growing force and Orfeo — now known locally as Norfo — begins to march toward Babylon. Turning to Cyrus, he speaks wryly of his recent good fortune:
“I believe that there are times when unpredictable things can happen.”
As the book unfolds, Clarice decides to approach the Queen directly about Zenaida’s obsession with her husband’s destruction — along with the capture and public humiliation of Daryush, whom Zenaida feels spurned her advances sometime earlier.
Does Zenaida succeed in her single-minded plans to find and crush Daryush? And what of Cyrus and Orfeo, who engage in many escapades before participating in a grand climax? It will leave you finally fulfilled and marveling at the author’s skillful ability to tie up all the loose ends flawlessly.
This is ultimately a superb adventure yarn, with plenty of good guys to cheer on and enough bad guys — and girls — to provide sufficient doubt as to the final outcome. There are a wealth of nail-biting sequences in which the reader will often wonder what happens next.
Return to Babylon deserves five stars for its historical scope, its ingenious cast of memorable characters and its epic storyline, which continues to celebrate Orfeo’s legendary feats in the face of overwhelming odds.
His saga will surely continue in book six of the saga, due out soon.