Review of Skeletons of the Zahara by Dean King


I picked this up and read it in the winter of 2010 and it is one of my favorite historical adventures that is also an incredible story of survival. In summary – it tells the story of an American brig called the Commerce that set sail from a port in Connecticut in the early 1800s. The vessel was headed to Cape Verde Islands to haul salt back to America. On its fateful journey via Gibraltar and the West African coastline, the Commerce is shipwrecked at Cape Bojador near the West Saharan desert. Captured by nomads, the crew undergoes a harrowing journey through the unforgiving desert with their cruel captors, that could lead to a long and painful death.

Who should read it: If you like reading historical adventures especially those with gritty survival stories – this is a great book. The incredible situations faced by Captain Riley and his crew are quite gripping and it is hard to put the book down, once you get started.

What it is not: If you are looking for a maritime adventure (àla Master & Commander by Patrick O’Brian), this is probably not going to cut it. While there is plenty of action on the high seas as well, it lasts for a brief part of the narrative only.  The real adventure begins on terra firma. Also, given that it is not a work of fiction, the situations are very realistic and even scary at times. Some might see that as “not entertaining” – but it depends on what your pleasure is. Being a history buff, I personally find such tales very interesting.

Overall rating: I would give it four stars out of five.

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