REVIEW: A Marine’s mission in ‘Sand and Fire’

Action-packed novel part of series written by UNC grad Tom Young
Jul. 19, 2014 @ 10:52 AM

“Sand and Fire” by Tom Young (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, hardcover, $26.95)

The setting: Northern Africa, present day. The enemy: a new terrorist group using chemical weapons on civilians. The U.S. Marine: Gunnery Sgt. A.E. Blount. The result: a realistic, engaging, action-filled novel that is “Sand and Fire” by Tom Young.

Blount is already a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, and ready to retire after 20 years, trading his special operations job for a new civilian one. But his mission isn’t completed.

Blount goes home to South Carolina briefly, but is drawn back in to finish the job of stopping the new terrorists. He’s one of multiple entities that work together on the mission, including other military branches and nations.

Blount himself could make a cool action figure – he’s larger than life. There is violence, but not gratuitous glorification of violence. In multiple instances, Blount thinks about his grandfather, a Montford Point Marine – North Carolina’s African American Marines in World War II. His grandfather told him to fight to protect, not fight to punish. Blount tries to remember that after witnessing the terrorists’ brutality on civilians and colleagues. “Sand and Fire” progresses on the ground and in the air, and eventually when Blount is taken captive by the terrorist group.

Young does a great job of explaining acronyms as he goes, rather than some authors who just put a list in the back of the book. It immerses the reader immediately into the world of Blount, former Army linguist Sophia Gold and an Air Force colonel, Michael Parson.

Gold, now with the United Nations, is part of the intelligence gathering operation and sees action herself. Young writes realistically about women in war zones. Gold is another battle-seasoned character, not a side character to be dismissed. This is important, because today’s wars are fought by women as well as men, and they should be represented and respected.

The author is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate and military veteran. Young retired from the Air National Guard last year as a senior master sergeant. In the service, he was a flight engineer on a C-130 Hercules and C-5 Galaxy. He knows his military birds, and “Sand and Fire” includes interesting details of flight. He served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo and the Horn of Africa, so he knows his geography, too. He lives in Northern Virginia now, where a lot of retired military end up.

Young studied writing at UNC. If “Sand and Fire” draws you in, Young has other books as well, four featuring Gold and Parson. He is the author of “The Warriors,” “The Renegades,” in which Blount makes his first appearance, and “The Mullah’s Storm.” “Sand and Fire” ends in a way that leaves the future of Blount open as the desert. Let’s hope the Marine has a few more stories to share, courtesy of Young.

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