Lies That Blind

A Novel of Late 18th Century Penang

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
276 Pages
Reviewed on 08/18/2022
Buy on Amazon

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Free Book Program, which is open to all readers and is completely free. The author will provide you with a free copy of their book in exchange for an honest review. You and the author will discuss what sites you will post your review to and what kind of copy of the book you would like to receive (eBook, PDF, Word, paperback, etc.). To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email.

This author participates in the Readers' Favorite Book Review Exchange Program, which is open to all authors and is completely free. Simply put, you agree to provide an honest review an author's book in exchange for the author doing the same for you. What sites your reviews are posted on (B&N, Amazon, etc.) and whether you send digital (eBook, PDF, Word, etc.) or hard copies of your books to each other for review is up to you. To begin, click the purple email icon to send this author a private email, and be sure to describe your book or include a link to your Readers' Favorite review page or Amazon page.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Essien Asian for Readers' Favorite

Tired of trying to live up to his father's high standards unsuccessfully, Jim Lloyd packs up his worldly possessions and heads off to the Malayan island of Penang. He intends to serve under the island's administrator, Captain Francis Light, in a bid to jump-start his fledgling writing career. He makes friends on the island and learns the ways of the people and the history of that beautiful place. All is not well as it seems that old adversaries have cast envious eyes on the island with plans that can only lead to bloodshed. The wolves have entered the sheep pen unseen, and trust is the new legal tender. Can Jim separate fact from fiction, or will his love for the lucre Penang has to offer cost him everything he holds dear? Loyalties will be clearly defined in E.S. Alexander's Lies That Blind: A Novel of Late 18th Century Penang.

E.S. Alexander's Georgian era classic is simply stunning. The attention to detail is nothing short of perfect with her storyline carrying the mood of constant conflict that was the order of the day in The British East Indies at the time. Her writing style and character creation are reminiscent of Jane Austen's with a harder-hitting edge but more graphic; getting fired for suggesting one can buy elbow grease does not get any funnier. I daresay it would be difficult to top this. The suspense stays heightened all through the story right up to the shocking culmination. Lies That Blind: A Novel of Late 18th Century Penang is brilliant writing at its best.

Mindy Hersch

I quickly became absorbed by this newly-released novel by former Austinite E.S. Alexander, now of Penang, Malaysia. She has an interesting "story behind the story" as this is her debut novel after 22 internationally published non-fiction books. Nevertheless, it's clear that the author has full command of writing a novel given that Lies That Blind has such a compelling plot, interesting (mainly historical) characters, and fascinating setting.

As the author of the forthcoming book ‘Women of Austin,' I love reading strong female characters. Martinha Rozells, Francis Light's common-law wife, holds a tremendous amount of influence over the protagonist, Jim Lloyd. It is largely through her strength that Jim is transformed out of his original naive state to become a very different man. There is also a "twist" that would be too much of a spoiler to put into this review. I wonder if you will spot it? I didn't! A wonderful read...highly recommended.

Lewis John Landreth

As a fan of historical fiction I was anxious to dig into this new novel set in Penang, Malaysia. Penang is well known as the first British trading post established in the Far East. E. S. Alexander’s novel is inspired by the true life events of the late 18th century founding of Penang and of it’s founder, Captain Francis Light.

Those drawn to intrigue and adventure will find a compelling character in young James Lloyd who seeks his fortune in the fledgling trading port of Penang. Ms. Alexander is a meticulous researcher and story teller. With a narrative set in a historically rich place and time Alexander breathes life into James Lloyd, Dutchman Pieter Reinaert, Captain Francis Light, and Light’s wife Martinha Rozells.

Highly recommended.

Kim Lockhart

This novel starts off (briefly) like a narrative nonfiction book about the imperialism and brutal colonialism of the East India Company. But, that's just to set the stage. Early on, the author shifts to a decidedly more historical fiction posture, though it's still loosely based on a real person: Captain Francis Light. Several surprising turns later, you find that you're invested in a character-driven story with all the drama of any mystery thriller. There's more intrigue and layering of plot with each chapter. I was captivated. See if you can figure out the surprise twist before it's revealed!


If only history teachers made the past as interesting and exciting as E.S. Alexander! I learned about Lies That Blind from a friend and it sounded fascinating. How many of us, on this side of the world, have a chance to read about what went on in Malaya (as Malaysia was known back then) in the late 18th century?

This may be a novel, but it is inspired by true events: the arrival on Penang of Captain Francis Light, an agent of the East India Company, who helped to develop the island into a thriving trading settlement. And it has all of the hallmarks of a really captivating story: an exotic setting and a fascinating set of characters that include cut-throat pirates, usurers, a naïve young journalist, and the Malay sultan deceived by Light.

This is a great book for book clubs! On her website, Alexander includes a set of questions for book clubs to discuss among their members. There are certainly plenty of different interesting characters and story lines to explore--many we still see from today, such as what some people will do when obsessed with fame and being “remembered” --that would encourage long discussions. I highly recommend this book!

Helen Guy

My book group recently read this much anticipated novel by E S Alexander. Being based in Penang we all had some knowledge of the island's history, much of it sugar coated. The author's meticulous research gave an insight into the reality of Francis Light's life in Penang (or Prince of Wales Island as it was then known) and his actions that led to its founding as a British trading post.
However it was the colourful characters that led to the most discussion. From the Malay headman, Tuan Nakhoda Ismail to the Dutch trader Pieter Reinaert to Light's biographer Jim Lloyd, the fictitious characters were cleverly interwoven with real events in history to make a fascinating and very believable story. And what a twist at the end-noone saw that coming. But you'll have to read it for yourself to learn what happened.

Penny Hozy

I have just finished reading E.S. Alexander’s Lies that Blind for the second time and feel compelled to write a review of it. I have a keen interest in historical fiction (having written some myself), and in Penang, where I have spent a good deal of time. How could I resist this book?
Writing historical fiction is hard. First, there is the research you must do if you are to be accurate, which is essential, even though you’re writing a fictional story around it. E.S. Alexander has clearly done her homework. The book abounds in historically accurate facts, including the actual words of Francis Light, a real person and a key character in the book. According to Alexander, she read Light’s correspondence and used his exact words when writing his dialogue.
Second is the incorporation of all the research into the narrative so that it doesn’t intrude upon or detract from the story. This is tricky. Some authors (who shall remain nameless) seem to be driven to include everything they have read in the story. I’m sure I’m not the only reader who gets annoyed by this. Luckily (for the reader), Alexander does not do this. She seamlessly weaves a lot of information into the narrative, never boring us or annoying us, or worse, distracting us from the great story she has written.
Third, getting the tone right is another difficult part of writing historical fiction. When I read Lies that Blind, I knew I was in a different time and place. The language hit all the right notes and never rang false (mixing my metaphors, I know). The writing was appropriately formal, but clear and concise. Again, I knew I was in a different time and place, and that I was in the hands of a skilled writer.
Thanks, E.S., I enjoyed your book immensely. And I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in history, historical fiction, the 18th century, and Penang, Malaysia.

Amazon Customer

Compelling story with surprising twists and turns that caught me off guard and simultaneously gave me a look inside the dark underbelly of the colonial era in Southeast Asia and India. While I would never finish a non-fiction book on this subject, having an historical novel open up the forces of greed, racism, and misogyny inherent in European colonialism was both educational and entertaining.

This book is beautifully written with a tone that matches the formality of the 18th century. I’d love to see this book get made into a movie!

Gladis Araujo

Happy to recommend this wonderful book recently published by my good friend Dr. Liz Alexander
We met in Malaysia while living both there and I was very fortune to scoop her research and read her first drafts of this fascinating book.

You will learn about the origins of Penang Island in Malaysia and their main characters back then in a very interesting novel.

Challenging research, beautiful outcome.

Enjoy, I am sure you would be looking to visit this lovely island.

Amazon Customer

For fans of historical fiction or those that like a well crafted story with an intriguing plot this is a must. Set in 18th Century Malaysia it recounts the true events behind the acquisition of Penang island by Francis Light for the British East India company wrapped up in a great story with a plot that surprises & intrigues. The author has undertaken a lot of detailed research to tell the story from a number of different sides, this is not history just told by the winner but from the perspective of the Malays, the Chinese & individual characters from the time. A thoroughly enjoyable read & definitely recommended.

Sharon Schweitzer

Having lived in Penang for several years, E.S. Alexander has shown a deeper sense of place than someone writing purely from their imagination or desk research. As an interculturalist who studies power distance, I was intrigued by the inclusion of Malay 'peribahasa' or proverbs, as well as insights into how sultans and chiefs wielded power over the 'rakyat' or general populace during that point in history.

It is a pleasure to read a historical novel that looks beyond the 'usual suspects' of Tudor England or the Revolutionary War period, one that brings to life a story inspired by true, chronicled events and will expose Western readers to a fascinating time and place: Malaya in the 18th century.