Sons of the Soil

A Novel

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
458 Pages
Reviewed on 05/02/2019
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Sons of the Soil is the result of a journey. After finishing his doctorate in clinical psychology, and in need of a change, Lucas sold all of his belongings, packed up two bags, bought a one-way ticket to Macedonia, and moved there without a job. He settled in the city of Tetovo and ended up living there for a total of four years over two separate time periods, working as a university professor, grant writer, and secondary school principal. He learned Albanian and fell in love with the people, culture, and city.

This book was born out of those experiences in Macedonia and the amazing people he met.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

Sons of the Soil by Lucas Dines is a sweeping historical fiction novel taking place on the cusp of two of the world's most defining moments, the onset of WWI and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Macedonia in the earliest years of the twentieth century sets the stage for a multiple points of view story about a man, Jon Ahmeti, who will do anything to save his family. At the behest of MacGregor, a British spy, there is little that isn't required of him as he becomes witness to (and a victim of) the atrocities of the Balkan conflict. “We Macedonians are frozen in time, confined to a playground in which Fate continually acts out all of its most sadistic fantasies.”

Dines has done an exceptional job in bringing to life a piece of history that so few seem to know about. Sons of the Soil is epic in both sound and substance, pushing beyond Jon Ahmeti's first-person perspective and cracking open every bloody angle through the eyes of opposing characters. Each allows the reader into the heart and mind of a transgressor, which all are, including Ahmeti in his own forcefully misguided way. I loved Eleni, a strong yet violently damaged Greek rebel, but found Gotse Delchev, a Slavic freedom fighter and leader of the IO, to be the most intriguing. It takes an even-handed, skilled writer to deliver such an ambitious saga, but Dines has done it with a responsible storyline that manages the delicate act of balancing a cataclysmic time in history with a riveting fictional drama. A beautiful novel.

K.C. Finn

Sons of the Soil is a work of historical fiction penned by author Lucas Dines, which focuses on European history just after the turn of the twentieth century. Set in the under-represented locale of Macedonia, this multi-narrative novel focuses on people from different nationalities, cultures and belief systems as it explores the concept of power and uprising that makes up the mindset of the different tribes of Balkan people. Jon Ahmeti is one such voice, an Albanian man embroiled in a web he never chose, who must fight for his family as atrocities happen all around him, and justify his own part in those terrible memories.

Focusing hard on the extreme tensions, racial differences and political conflicts of Europe prior to the events of the First World War, this is an excellent, immersive and well-researched novel which showcases the best and worst qualities of humankind. Deeper than this sweeping view, however, is author Lucas Dines’s talent for bringing individual characters into our hearts. Jon Ahmeti stands out as a man whose struggles stay with you long after the reading experience is over. He feels like a friend, with family values at the heart of his extreme fortitude to carry on, even during the most dreadful circumstances, and it’s this character strength which presents the real heart of the novel. Overall, Sons of the Soil is sure to please European history fans for its dedication to the details and tensions of the time, but it is also an inspiring work of fiction for any reader to benefit from.

Christian Sia

Sons of the Soil: A Novel by Lucas Dines is an exciting historical novel with very interesting characters and a conflict that reflects a turbulent period in history. In this story, the author pulls readers into Macedonia in 1902, a world being torn apart by war and ethnic cleansing. Jon Ahmeti, an Albanian living in Macedonia, is entangled in the deadly struggle for supremacy between the separatists, the rebels from Greece, and the nationalists. He fights for the survival of his family. Will links with the British spymaster make or mar his dreams of keeping his family safe amidst the deteriorating situation of violence?

The narrative opens with rare humor which presents one of the key characters in the story and an interesting aspect of the city: “James MacGregor walked through the narrow alleyways of Istanbul and twitched his nose. The stink. This city had such a lovely stink.” The author has the ability to make the setting come alive, with its smells and colors and structures. The chaos is captured with apt descriptions. Lucas Dines is a master at handling conflict and in this novel, the author creates factions with different interests and thrusts them together in a world where each fights for control. While this is set in the Balkans, it offers insights into the reality of revolutionary wars, a reality that still threatens many countries in contemporary times.

The language in Sons of the Soil: A Novel is gorgeous and it reflects the context in which the story takes place. For instance, the protagonist says: “I decided to roll another cigarette...” Today, we just light a cigarette. The narrative is done from different points of views and this helps to build suspense as readers want to know what happened to characters they left in previous chapters. This is an absorbing story that explores political conflict and one man’s journey through trying times to keep his family safe.

Divine Zape

Sons of the Soil: A Novel by Lucas Dines is set in Macedonia in 1902 at a time when the Ottoman empire is facing certain collapse. The struggle for power in the Balkans is fierce. It is against this backdrop that Jon Ahmeti, a young Albanian man living in Macedonia, finds himself caught up in a game of power and conspiracy that involves the Greek rebels, the separatists and the Bulgarian nationalists. Linked to the British spy network, Jon has to ensure his family survives in a land filled with tension and violence.

Lucas Dines has what it takes to keep readers captivated and I loved how the suspense is developed in this story, with a skillful switch in narrative voice. The story is told from the perspectives of different characters and while this allows readers a better understanding of the plot points, it also creates a powerful sense of suspense. The prose is exquisitely good, filled with vivid descriptions of characters, scenes, and aspects of the setting.

This author made me feel as though I was witnessing a historical event, only he rendered it more colorful by bringing to life interesting characters like a beautiful Greek revolutionary, an indefatigable colonel, and the terrorists. Sons of the Soil: A Novel is a tale of survival in a world filled with chaos and danger, a revisiting of the land and the history that witnessed one of the goriest experiences of war. A gripping narrative that will keep fans of historical novels hugely entertained.

Kathryn Bennett

Sons of the Soil: A Novel by Lucas Dines dives into 1902 when the Ottoman empire is collapsing and the German war machine marches on, seeing Europe lost in the shadow of the battle for the Balkans. Jon Ahmeti, an Albanian man who lives in Macedonia, finds himself drawn into the never-ending web of power during this tumultuous time, and he must question everything he knows in order for him and his family to survive. What will happen to Jon and the others trapped in this fight? Who will end up on the right side of history in the end?

As a reader of historical stories, I am often drawn into the wars of the past and one thing friends and I talk about is how many books only tell the story of the battle from one side. There is a reason the saying 'history is written by the winners' is gospel. So Sons of the Soil proves to be a unique read because it gives the reader more than one perspective and not just through characters on the same side of the battle but from every different corner of this struggle. For that reason alone I commend author Lucas Dines. But this book goes deeper than that. As a reader, I felt an almost instant connection with Jon. He is just a man like anyone else but he finds himself caught up and thrown into turmoil by the events going on around him. It is like watching a drowning man struggle at times - you are not sure if you want to see him surface again or hope he doesn’t because you know his struggle is over.

Jon could be any of us and that is what I find so intriguing about this book. It does a fantastic job of melding the historical events of the day into the fictional story being created. It is almost seamless and you find yourself wondering sometimes if you are reading a memoir or a first-hand account instead of fiction. I would highly recommend this book and I look forward to reading more from this author.