Abu Nuwas, the titular Father of Locks, was a character befitting his own franchise and the follow-up allows Killeen to explore the life and adventures of his hero. The novel is structured around an episodic series of flashbacks, as both Abu Nuwas and his story-telling protege, Ismail, recount the former's life story.
This is a fantastic narrative approach because it effectively turns the novel into a series of novelettes, each of which can be devoured as a standalone adventure. These adventures revisit Abu Nuwas at different stages of his life, both before and after the events of The Father of Locks, meaning that The Khalifah's Mirror is both prequel and sequel, providing an origin story for the dashing Arabian poet but also offering catch-ups with characters who we knew and loved from the original novel.
The flashback novelettes are rich and diverse, spanning the globe and therefore broadening Killeen's historical world which was established in The Father of Locks. Killeen provides Abu Nuwas with plenty of great escapades: he extracts a terrorist from rival desert tribes, romances a Sri Lankan princess committed to a forced marriage, searches for a lost treaty by following Da Vinci Code style clues, infiltrates a forbidden city and hunts a faceless Roman assassin called al-Sifr, the Void.
The pursuit of al-Sifr is a reoccurring theme across the majority of the flashbacks and provides Abu Nuwas with a nemesis, a prerequisite for all great heroes. Abu Nuwas is equal parts James Bond, Aladdin, Captain Jack Sparrow and Sherlock Holmes, which would make al-Sifr his Moriarty, a mysterious and anonymous threat that plagues Abu Nuwas' adventures. The enigma of al-Sifr is a gripping page-turning device and culminates in a shocking revelation, which will not disappoint.
As I said in my review for The Father of Locks, this is no ordinary historical fiction. This is One Thousand and One Nights with an R rating. There is plenty of old school adventuring to enjoy, such as sword fights, romance treasure trails, palace conspiracies and exotic destinations, but there is also a good deal of sex, violence and swearing to satisfy the Game of Thrones generation. As such, The Khalifah's Mirror is ridiculously entertaining and deserves to attract a mainstream audience.
I recommend this novel without hesitation.