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HFC Editorial Review of "Blind Man's Labyrinth" by Daryl Potter

Author Bio:

Daryl Potter has been a cornet player, carpenter, nurse, emergency room assistant, chicken catcher, medical genetics lab technician, IT manager and banking product manager. He has explored Egypt's pyramids, Israel's deserts, and Turkey's archaeology. In addition to studying Alexandrian Greek and ancient Hebrew poetry, he has been bitten by a wolf in northern British Columbia and attacked by a western diamondback rattlesnake in California. He and his wife share their home outside Toronto, Ontario, with their two teenage children.

His first novel, Keziah's Song, explores the tumultuous 135-101 BCE period, focused on the Seleucid Empire and Israel. Further books in the series will explore the period 135 BCE to 135 CE with a reach that expands to include Egypt, Rome, Nabataea and the Parthian Empire. This is a period of history full of little-known stories that are as dramatic as anything found in most popular fantasy novels and whose effects continue to shape Western Civilization and three of the world's major religions.

For more information and Daryl's blog, please visit

Editorial Review:

'Blind man's Labyrinth'' is an extraordinary piece of work. The readers' voyage on what will be a difficult and troubling journey would be greatly enhanced by a certain level of prior understanding of the times and the place of the book, but a person with little or no knowledge of the background will equally appreciate this rich and highly textured and intensely moving novel. Thereafter, a certain level of individual research into the period and place will bring the work into an even sharper focus; for ''Blind Man's Labyrinth'' is truly a book that should be read and savoured not just the once.

Haim, the protagonist of the book, is the classic 'everyman', a solitary and intensely lonely figure in an alien and hostile landscape, constantly on the move, constantly searching for peace and an understanding of who he is and seeking to understand the chaos and madness that surrounds him. Indeed, he questions the degree to which he himself has played in creating the actual suffering and cruelty that surrounds him. The eventual awareness and understanding of his place and role in a hostile world is an immensely powerful aspect of the book. Throughout the narrative, Haim experiences a series of revelatory truths about himself and the world beyond. Haim, typically making no contribution to a conversation between a group of potters concerning their work and art, reflects: ''he was as deeply enmeshed in the art of ruin as these men in the particulars of making pots. Their tools were clay and kiln. His tools were sling, knife, fist and somehow finding and befriending poisonous people. The betrayal of innocents, a forest of crosses. Those were his tools, and the harvest was always rich.''

The book is set in the location of Israel in the years 92 BCE to 84 BCE. It is a period of violent civil war. In the north, the forces of the Seleucid Empire battle constantly with forces loyal to King Jannaeus and the Temple at Jerusalem. The Sadducees and the Pharisees are in bitter religious conflict and all of Galilee and Samaria is a wasteland plagued with murderous bandits. In the south, the fanatics of the cult Temple of the Goddess Ashtaroth in the city of Ashkelon have their own brand of particular horror. Into this cauldron, an eleven year old boy is set loose completely alone. Haim, a boy of tainted blood, half Jewish, hated by his own mother, seeks to make his own way in the world. This is an endless and painful Odyssey.

The young boy is rootless and aimless. He drifts throughout the land with a single companion he has rescued, a girl younger than he, Chaya, the sole survivor of a village massacred by bandits. They travel together aimlessly for a period before falling in with a band of Samaritan robbers and bandits. With them, Haim learns to kill and commits the first of many murders. After years on the road still he is seeking a sense of identity and of purpose, for himself and for the twisted world that surrounds him. He is seeking companionship and peace. He is, he knows, lost and alone.

''Regardless of what road he chose, he would always be the same Haim, blown wherever the wind blew, part of no fellowship........'' to be finished with life seemed the only path left to him, but he was not yet ready to die. He was only twenty six years old and he wanted to know why he was alive....''

Ultimately the band is tracked down, executed and dispersed by soldiers. The survivors, Chaya with them still, disappear. In return for his life and his freedom Haim betrays a village that had previously offered him and Chaya refuge and security of sorts, for Chaya at least. It is destroyed by the forces of Jerusalem. The menfolk and the Pharisees living among them are crucified in a horrifying mass execution and the memory of this and of his betrayal will haunt him for the rest of his difficult days.

Haim journeys south and along the coast and to the city of Askalon. [In tracing Haim's convoluted journeys the map provided by Daryl Potter is invaluable] and falls victim to a vicious and dangerous cult there. He is the victim of their practices, driven mad by privation and poisons. Freeing himself finally, and now truly murderous and unstable, he becomes a mercenary and an expert with the slingshot, feared and shunned by all in the long civil war still raging and the fighting between Jerusalem and the Seleucids and the suppression of rebels and dissidents.

He is also following his own extremely strict and austere dietary regime, thus alienating him still further. He leads this existence for a further six years before deserting and wandering alone once more, wracked with a constant guilt. He next falls in with a group of extreme aesthetics devoted to purity and truth, the Essenes and the settlement of 'Qumran'. He becomes a novice in their order, two further years of extreme privation and learning before he can hope for full initiation into the Order. Perhaps he will find peace and acceptance among them: ''Everywhere I've gone, I've travelled for twenty six years. I want to know to be clean of everything that is.'' Alas, after a tragic fatality, Haim feels he has been betrayed, even by this pious and chaste community and he is loose and adrift once more, despite their ultimate promise of righteousness. Ultimately, he rediscovers his childhood home near the city of Dora. The place is a crumbling ruin and he sets to restore it and settle there. The wheel has come full circle and perhaps finally he can find peace.

''Doomed encounters rarely come with a warning - danger unwraps itself in mystery and evil unfolds so slowly and with such charm that by the time a victim understands what is occurring, it is too late.'' Like Haim, this is an extremely unsettling book for a reader to wander through. It is, throughout, a completely compelling read and is full of lyrically expressed truths and moments of pure wisdom and philosophy. Heart wrenching and tragic, ''Blind Man's Labyrinth' is a book to be savoured and treasured.


“Blind Man’s Labyrinth” by Daryl Potter receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award from The Historical Fiction Company.


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