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“A sobering look at what ethnic cleansing truly means for anyone concerned with today’s state of the world.” – Indie Reader


Robert Niebuhr, Honors Faculty Fellow,

Arizona State University

Robert Niebuhr is a faculty fellow at Barrett; his scholarship has focused on the political and military history of former Yugoslavia, aspects of modern German history, and twentieth-century Bolivian history. 

“When the American adventurer and writer Arthur D. Howden Smith wrote about the Balkans in 1908 he argued that the region was “a shadow-land of mystery.”  Rebecca West more famously penned her travel story across Yugoslavia in the late 1930s to juxtapose past and present as a way of informing and entertaining readers.  Even earlier in the 1820s, Lord Byron captured the imagination of England during the Greek struggle for independence with his romantic tales of freedom fighters full of ancient hatreds.  Enter Lucas Dines in the twenty-first century.  Dines has written a novel that takes advantage of this rich tradition of mixing history with story-telling yet dares the reader to reevaluate traditions.  Early character development reinforces the notion that the Balkans is a hopeless powder keg, especially under the influence of international intrigue.  Inspired by history, the adventures of Jon Ahmeti take a refreshing turn and show the reader the true spirit of the Balkans—a land filled with genuinely kind people who take pride in community, family, and faith.  Rather than blindly reinforce stereotypes Dines encourages the reader to ask big questions and reflect on how Macedonians, Albanians, Greeks, Turks, Serbs, Bulgarians, and Jews matter for us today.”


Dr. Justin Otten, Indiana University

Director, Global Health Affairs
Adjunct Faculty, Russian and East European Institute (REEI)

“Dines has written an engaging work of historical fiction based on the largely real characters and events of early 20th century Macedonia. At the time Macedonia was the last bastion of “Turkey in Europe”—the remaining portion of the Ottoman Empire’s foothold on the European continent. Neighboring nations had fought for and gotten their independence in the 19th century, but Macedonia was less a nation than an incredibly diverse historical region comprised of Christians, Muslims, and Jews. The latter are largely excluded from the book, given their more cosmopolitan existence, lack of a national movement, and the fact that the neighboring countries vying for their piece of Macedonia were Orthodox Christian, battling against an Islamic empire (and each other). Thus “Sons of Soil” focuses on the latter two religious groups, yet does so in an engaging way—starting off with the role of British intelligence in fomenting division in the region and continuing with the role and journey of their Albanian (Muslim) agent, Jon Ahmeti. The book can feel divisive at times, as it shares the thoughts and memories (manifested as vindictive hatreds) of its constituent ethno-national characters, including Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs, Macedonians, and Albanians—all who had suffered from the violent world that was Ottoman Macedonia—yet it does so quite unilaterally. Through the goodness and wisdom of other characters though, it also reminds the reader of the simple nature of people and how most just want to be with their families and loved ones, and that national identity is a fabrication (though ethnic allegiances and blood ties do run deep). The reader is left to decide how they feel about this, and anyone familiar with the region knows that ethno-national identity remains contentious in Macedonia and the Balkans to this day. Yet even for those not familiar with Macedonia, what Dines has succeeded in doing is creating a riveting story that leaves the reader yearning for more. The book reels you in as you wonder what will happen next, and ponder who will live, win, or die, as well as whether justice will be served. The end of the book would have benefitted from focusing less on the ethno-religious dichotomy (Slav Christians versus Albanian Muslims) and more of the family versus invading outsiders, but the book is nonetheless an entertaining, informative, and binding read which helps illustrate Macedonia in the early 20th century. “


“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.” – 5 Star Review by K.C. Finn at Readers’ Favorite


“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.” – 5 Star Review by Jamie Michele at Readers’ Favorite

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