This is the third book in the Quest series, following the Golden Scarab and the Cursed Nile. We follow our three time-travelling friends JJ, Linc and Rani, back to ancient Egypt because their friend from previous books, Khafre, invites them to visit for a very important ceremony – the funeral of his father and his own coronation as the new Pharaoh.
Of course, all is not as peaceful as it seems; under the smooth exterior, doubts and concerns cloud the young Pharaoh’s thoughts. His father should have been protected from this ‘accident’ that took his life, by the sacred Ankh of Life, hidden deep in the Pharaoh’s palace. Has something happened to the Ankh? He asks JJ, Linc and Rani to find out….
The first half of The Fallen Pharaoh gives full rein to S W Lothian’s magnificent descriptive skills – I have no doubt that the pharaonic rituals were exactly as he describes, right down to the souvenir sellers and papyrazzi capturing the scenes of the day – as well as the celeb gossip and smears. Once again our three heroes tackle underground mazes and I love the author’s ingenuity and the way he puts the reader right alongside his protagonists, feeling every inch of the tunnels, the secrets, and the fear of the very nasty Uberdiles, who are working to prevent their success.
It is in the second half that the tale really takes off, though. More drama and a really dire problem to be solved, with more pursuers on their tails. The scene switches to modern Paris, by way of a cleverly inventive Time Square, where all time travellers report and face questioning in cases of breaches of time protocols. It is also the place where they can research the past and present of the Ankh, thus discovering the Paris link. Time Square reminds me very much of the film version of the Ministry of Magic, but that is no problem, since the bureaucracy of time would be little different from that of magic, or any other, for that matter. There are some lovely twists in the tale, and Paris, and the Metro, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, are all accurately described. I thought the way the author handled the dual-language announcements was very good.
At times I felt the author dwelled too long on certain descriptions, but it may be that I got it first time and he feels his ideal reader (I’m not in the right age bracket!) would not. He also provides a regular recap in case they’ve taken a break and forgotten the story so far. It is a feature of modern tv programmes, after all. The pace of the second half is excellent, with the race against time getting me really willing our heroes on, despite finding the overall purpose of this quest less compelling than usual. Some of the local colour in the second ceremony near the end of the book was a little repetitious, given the earlier one.
There are some lovely elements to this story (I particularly like the small statue rescued from the Louvre), and the whole thing ties up well, leaving a few loose ends that are clearly planted for the next in the Quest series. I’m already looking forward to it.
I received an Advance Review Copy free of charge in return for my honest review of this book. Some editing may alter the copy I read compared with the final release.