The Travels of ibn Thomas

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
352 Pages
Reviewed on 11/19/2020
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Author Biography

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.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Foluso Falaye for Readers' Favorite

The Travels of ibn Thomas depicts a man's struggle to save his soul, gain recognition as a physician, and learn the truth about his father in a medieval world disrupted by the contrasting interests of Christians, Muslims, and Judaists. Born a Muslim and baptized in the Christian faith, Thomas practices as a physician but his identity is constantly threatened as each faith pushes him to choose a side and puts him in life-threatening circumstances. When Thomas finds out about the disappearance of his father, who had been a spy for the Church, he vows to find out what became of him. This charming and enthralling second book in the Sugar Merchant series by James Hutson-Wiley spans England, Egypt, Jerusalem, and the open seas, and presents the dangerous exploits of an ambitious physician.

I was hoping that the political and historical nature of the book would not overshadow and compromise the smoothness and appeal of the story, and I was thrilled to find out that this is not the case. The Travels of ibn Thomas is a historical novel that gets it right as it perfectly balances historical facts with a deeply engrossing narrative that teaches, entertains, and inspires. An impressive aspect of the book is how the characters are portrayed to have different beliefs but all share similar flaws and desires. I fell in love with James Hutson-Wiley's natural and lifelike characters, especially the calm protagonist and his talkative friend whose role adds great humor to the plot. There's just so much to like in The Travels of ibn Thomas that I consider it a favorite and would definitely love to read it again.

K.C. Finn

The Travels of Ibn Thomas is a work of fiction in the historical, cultural, political, and interpersonal drama genres, and serves as a sequel to The Sugar Merchant. It was penned by author James Hutson-Wiley. The book tells the story of a physician living in the twelfth century as he completes his training and steps out into the world to practice. After a strange twist of fate sees him earn the favor of royalty, he becomes embroiled in a world of political intrigue and religious strife. This is a compelling drama set against the backdrop of the cultural and scientific revolution as the tenets of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim beliefs clash during the first crusade.

Author James Hutson-Wiley has crafted a highly compelling tale that is rich in its construction, emotional, and intellectual qualities. One of the things which I especially enjoyed about this work was its immersive feel, which is contributed to by many different factors from the author’s descriptive language and attention to historical detail, through to the realistic dialogue which conveys the changing attitudes of the time. It was also a genuinely unpredictable plot because of the layering of so many different contributing factors, which made it a really exciting read as we traveled through each twist and turn. I feel the work would be highly suited to readers who want a more challenging book which educates, but also provides thinking points to mull over. Overall, I would highly recommend The Travels of Ibn Thomas as an accomplished work by a very promising writer.

Vincent Dublado

The Travels of Ibn Thomas by James Hutson-Wiley is the second book in the Sugar Merchant Series. In this sequel, we find Ibn Thomas, now learned in the Quadrivium and the tenets of faith, is sent to the Salernitan Medical School to further advance his learning. He becomes a court physician in Sicily after saving the life of a prince. But he had to flee Sicily when disaster strikes, and he is wrongfully accused of breaching the laws of Sicilia and those of the Christians, and then loses his share of the Collegantia. Fleeing proved difficult for a man like Thomas: Half Moor, half Christian, half English, and half Arab, he has no place to call home except the abbey that raised and nurtured him.

The Travels of Ibn Thomas is an epic chronicle of one man’s journey in a time divided by religious and political rivalries. Although this is a work of fiction, James Hutson-Wiley gives us a historic glimpse of life during the twelfth century. You get an idea of what it was like to live in a transformational era of clashing Abrahamic faiths that are undergoing a commercial and scientific revolution. As Hakim Thoma narrates his story, he touches on the practices of medicine, trade, and rituals that highlight the preoccupations of the times. At the same time, it delves into impending dangers when you are trying to run away in a place where everyone is a friend of the Fatimid. A highly entertaining glimpse of twelfth-century life, this book is a delight for anyone who loves reading historical fiction.

Romuald Dzemo

The Travels of ibn Thomas by James Hutson-Wiley is the second book in the Sugar Merchant series and it follows an interesting, historical character: Thoma ibn Thomas. It is set in the twelfth century and features a protagonist who is a young man, the son of Thomas who was born in Egypt and who grew up in England. Admitted into the Schola Medica Salernitana, Thoma studied medicine and after saving the life of a prince, he became the court physician. But a tragedy and betrayal set him on a new path as a fugitive, running away from Sicily. Follow his adventure and travels as he was captured by pirates, became friends with an assassin, and found himself in the midst of both political and religious controversies of the medieval period.

The Travels of ibn Thomas is a fascinating story with a strong historical setting and I enjoyed the deft manner in which the author writes about the medieval period with its defining traits, including the first crusade, the commercial and religious revolutions, and the clash of cultures that defined the era. The elements of the prominent religions of the time come across vividly in the writing: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. While the story is infused with historical elements, it has an appeal to fans of adventure, taking readers across the seas and dangerous encounters to various cities. The author has a wonderful gift for character and besides the protagonist, there are well-developed characters like Jehan. The author does a great job of handling the conflict and presents worlds inhabited by characters with different cultural identities, including the Moors, Christians, Muslims, and Jews. The Travels of ibn Thomas is well-plotted and filled with adventure, a work of entertainment that will keep any fan of the genre turning the pages.

Tammy Ruggles

The Travels of ibn Thomas by James Hutson-Wiley is an entertaining, expansive history lesson come to life. This a sequel to The Sugar Merchant. In this second book, the main character, Thomas' son, Thoma, takes the reader on a deep, fascinating journey through political and religious intrigue, history, and events that could oddly parallel today's world. Thoma is raised in England but born in Egypt, and in the twelfth century is trained in medicine at the Salernitan Medical School. He becomes a court physician after saving the life of a prince in Sicily. Things get serious for him when he's accused of something he didn't do, and flees. On the run, pirates capture him, he hooks up with an assassin, and finds himself embroiled in chaos in the Holy Land. You will be transported to another time and place by an author that will leave you impressed and wanting to read more. Although there are a lot of facts to whet your historical appetite, you will be thoroughly engrossed in this story.

To call this an adventurous historical novel would be accurate, but this sweeping tale is much more than that. As Thoma travels from place to place, the reader is along for the ride as well. And what a ride it is. Thanks to Hutson-Wiley's exquisite attention to detail, his vast understanding of the era he writes about, and his boundless talent for world-building and character-building (not just Thomas but the supporting players as well), the reader is treated to an intense yet entertaining trek through the science, commerce, culture, and religions of that time frame. Personally, I found the parts about the three Abrahamic faiths the most compelling, and I like that Thomas strives to keep his promise to God. If you are into exploring the intersection of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and want to do so in a way that is entertaining as well as enlightening, The Travels of ibn Thomas by James Hutson-Wiley is a perfect choice.