Book Review: The Mullah's Storm by Thomas W. Young

The Mullah's Storm, Thomas W. Young's debut novel, takes readers into the depths of the war in Afghanistan, pitting struggling American forces and their captive mullah against Afghan forces desperate to recover their spiritual leader in the midst of a fierce blizzard. Major Michael Parson and female interpreter Major Sergeant Gold fight the snow, their hunters, the cold, their captors, fatigue and hunger, and their hunters again in a riveting novel that captures the very human elements of war.

And the novel's success in doing so is not surprising; author Thomas Young is himself a former flight engineer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Air National Guard. In interviews, he has explained that his characters are composites of those with whom he fought, and the concept of captor and capture after a plane is downed is the imagining of a very real and very pertinent fear from his own experiences.

Young's experience shows itself in his narrative. The beauty of the Afghanistan landscape, marred by war and yet perfectly blanketed by feet of pure white snow is a recurring theme. Young's incorporation of common military technologies is detailed, accurate, and intriguing to one who has only a passing knowledge of the guns and tools used to fight our battles. Young's characters capture the struggle of warfighters to choose between sight and conserving the battery life of a pair of night-vision goggles; the cruel forms of torture used to harass prisoners by both sides of the fight; the strange-to-us mentality surrounding the militant Afghan forces; the internal divide between those Afghans fighting with the Allied forces and those fighting against them.

Unfortunately, Young's writing is tinged by the occasional choppy transition and uncomfortable attempt to work in details and plot backgrounds seemingly unnecessary to the development of the plot. Major Parson reflects back on hunting expeditions with his father, but the reflection reads as a forced one, out of place in the otherwise smooth narration of a gripping story.

Bottom line: Despite the minor plot inconsistencies and slightly uncomfortable passages, Young's first novel is a heroic effort, and, for fans of war novels and thrillers alike, will certainly not disappoint in the realms of riveting action and accurate historic detail. And for those of us struggling to wrap our minds around the actual experiences of the wars in which we find our country currently embroiled, The Mullah's Storm is a digestible and easily understood insight into the world of the warfighter. Just be prepared for a few gruesome scenes, and don't expect all the good guys to be the default winners.


Thanks to Lydia Hirt at Putnam/Riverhead for an advance copy of this title.


  1. My knowledge of the war in Afghanistan is sketchy. I'd like to read this book.

  2. Young sounds like an author to watch for. Thanks for your review.

  3. he book is a great read. Exciting, gut-wrenching, and very realistic. I look forward to other fictional books from Thomas Young. Highly recommended!


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