WARNING: Although I tried to give as few details about the plot as possible, don’t read my review if you already plan to read this book. It was difficult to explain my reaction without giving away part of what may have been intended as a surprise.
I liked this book, but it had some quirks. First of all, I was probably halfway through the book before I even remembered that this was supposed to be a fantasy novel. When I finally remembered what genre I was supposedly reading, I decided that I must have mislabeled the book’s genre in my database. There hadn’t been any clear fantasy elements in the story up to that point. I didn’t realize that I really was reading a fantasy novel until I was somewhere around the 75% mark. That was when the Egyptian mythological figures referenced throughout the story suddenly became a lot less mythological.
For most of the book, this read like a mystery or adventure novel set in the real world. I’m not sure of the exact time frame in which the story was set, but I’d guess it was around the late 1800’s. As a result of a variety of events, a small group of friends and family members set off together to seek out the tomb of a legendary Egyptian king. This tomb has supposedly been lost and forgotten deep in the Egyptian desert. During their journey from England to the Egyptian desert, the group of travelers face mysterious threats and attacks from people trying to dissuade them from their goal as well as physical hardships from traveling in the desert. I enjoyed this part of the book. I was curious who was behind the threats and what their intent was, and I was looking forward to finding out what would happen when (and if) they reached their destination. I also enjoyed reading about some of the Egyptian mythology, which I knew nothing about. (Unless you count being familiar with the names of some of the gods thanks to Stargate SG-1!)
At the 75% mark, my adventure unexpectedly turned into a fantasy and things got a little weird. If the entire book had been more along those veins, it wouldn’t have seemed weird to me. Fantasy is my favorite genre, and I have no problem suspending my disbelief as long as the setting is consistent and has some sort of logic to it. But the switch from real-world adventure to fantasy seemed to come out of nowhere and I wasn’t prepared to make that leap so late in the story. Technically one could argue that nothing had changed in the world presented in the book; it just hadn’t all been revealed to me yet. However, I had spent the entire book speculating about how things would turn out and then it felt like the rules were changed on me.
One other smaller complaint I had was that the author switched character perspectives within sections quite a bit rather than limiting perspective changes to section breaks. It was still easy to keep track of whose perspective I was reading from, but every time it happened it threw me out of the story for a minute.
I liked most of the characters, although some were a little annoying and difficult to empathize with. For example, I never really bought into Neville’s extreme obsession or motivations for finding the tomb. I also thought his infatuation with Lady Cheshire, another annoying character, was silly.
Despite my complaints, I enjoyed this story quite a bit. I didn’t have any trouble putting the book down when I had other things to do, but I also didn’t have any trouble picking it up and getting back into it. I found it really easy to picture the settings and events described in the book, but I never felt like the author spent too much time describing the scenery. I didn’t really notice it while I was reading, but after I put the book down I would often realize that I had very clear images of the things I had just read and yet I didn’t remember reading a lot of description. I guess she must have blended it in very seamlessly and struck an impressive balance between too much and not enough.
There were a couple simple word puzzles such as cryptograms in the book which I thought made a nice addition to the book, and fit in well with the story. I had fun solving them on my own before reading the characters’ solutions. I also enjoyed the slight mystery aspect of the story that kept me wondering and speculating about what would come next. That investment I felt in the outcome of the story is probably why I was more annoyed by the unexpected turn of events near the end.