What is the greatest desire of all?
In the death choked corridors of Palermo's famous catacombs, a young man asks this question of himself as he stands surrounded by eight thousand mummified corpses. The answer he gives, will set the course of his life and take him on a journey into the heart of darkness.
Adrian Ashton is a brilliant man: a quantum physicist and chronobiologist who has devoted his life to the study of chi — the vital energy that runs through our bodies. A gifted scientist, he is also a skilled martial artist — and a hunter. Calling himself Dragonfly, he preys on fighters and martial artists who are blessed with a strong life force, draining them of their chi and making it his own. To assist him in his quest, he draws on the knowledge contained in an enigmatic Chinese text written by a legendary Chinese physician in the thirteenth century.
But the hunter becomes the hunted when a mysterious woman enters his life. A martial artist herself, she belongs to a long line of Keepers: women who are warriors, healers and protectors. When Dragonfly targets the man she loves, she sets out to defeat him. It becomes a fight to the death in which love is both the greatest weakness and the biggest prize.
A fast-paced, highly original thriller, The Keeper: A Martial Arts Thriller* blends mysticism with science and explores themes as old as time: the imperative of violence, the redemptive power of love and the greatest desire of all — to live for ever.
When I wrote my novel, Keeper of Light and Dust* I drew on my own experiences as a martial artist and what life in the dojo is all about. Shortly after finishing Keeper I happened to come across a BBC News article about a group of Afghan women who are being taught how to box. These ladies are sponsored by a peace organization that is endeavouring to make the women feel more empowered and in charge of their lives.
What I found especially poignant is that the gym in which they train is located in a football stadium, which was used in the past by the Taliban for public executions, including the killing of women.
I know how liberated I feel when I am in the dojo, and can only imagine how much more so it must be for these women who lead restrictive lives and who are still coming to terms with a terrible period in Afghan history. The photographs that accompany the article tell the story. One picture shows a girl, her hands encased in boxing gloves, an expression of utter delight on her face. Another picture is of two women sparring. One of them has her hair upswept and gathered with a comb and she looks beautiful and feminine, but also strong and determined. You look at these pictures and you sense the joy and energy in the room.
I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of this project in some way and have decided that some of the income I derive from Keeper of Light and Dust* will go toward funding 'CPAU Fighting for Peace'. I have also donated to this programme the 5,000 pounds prize money that was given to me when Season of the Witch won the 2009 World Book Day Award and hope this will inspire my readers to be generous despite tough times.
The organization responsible for the program is Cooperation for Peace and Unity, and the inspirational people in charge have ambitious hearts. Not only are they teaching the ladies to put on boxing gloves, but they are also instructing them in conflict resolution techniques. The aim is to provide the girls with the tools to contribute to creating a progressive culture in Afghanistan based on courageous collective decision-making. Any readers who would like to know more about 'Fighting for Peace' or how they can contribute, please visit CPAU: Fight for Peace.
*Title used for the US edition. UK edition is titled The Keeper.