JJ is absolutely ordinary. His friend Linc is pretty normal, especially with his love of food and adventure, probably in that order! So how come a statue in a museum starts talking to them?
This is a time travel adventure, where JJ and his friend are invited to go on a Quest and are magically transported back to ancient Egypt by the god Horus. There they meet Rani, also transported back in time, but from Aswan. I was never quite clear what era Rani was from, but it didn’t seem to matter. They meet other secondary characters, not too many though, and carry out various parts of their quest in Memphis, Bubastis and Heliopolis, pursued all the while by the evil god Seth’s evil henchmen, the Uberdiles, sort of half-crocodile giants who generally take the form of statues, but sometimes mini sandstorms (sand devils).
There are a lot of statues in this book, most of whom have magical powers, usually either to attack our heroes or protect them. There are a lot of secret tunnels, a huge number of spiders, and a delightfully described maze with plenty of clues for the threesome to solve, accompanied at times by a magical cat named Mau. The boobytraps in the maze/caverns/underground temples structures are absolutely amazing, and take the reader through the second half of the book at breakneck pace!
I found the early part of the book a little disjointed, especially in its sentence structure, and I wasn’t sure that the Prelude added anything to the story. But this is a first book, and I think the author warmed to his story-telling well. The characters are engaging and, well, noble, without being cloying – JJ makes a great boy-next-door type, Linc is a solid best friend and Rani is clever and isolated in her desert home. Now where have I heard of a threesome like that before? I suppose it is a standard recipe, but it didn’t seem out of place (or stereotypical) when I was reading it.
I have the advantage of having been to Egypt and explored some of the tombs and temples, and the Pyramids, but I think the principles are well-enough known through Indiana Jones and school history lessons for most readers to take full advantage of the author’s excellent descriptions of the scenes and structures. The Egyptian mythology/history is handled well. Early on I felt there was a little too much telling and not enough showing, but once the quest began in earnest, the descriptions fell into place and were vivid and imaginative.
It turns into a rollicking adventure and I am keen to find out what they get up to next! This is the first book in a series – the third book is launched next month – and it shows great promise. I think Mr Lothian has found his true calling at last!
I won this copy in a Giveaway – and you could too, on http://swlothian.wordpress.com during Children’s Book Week 13-19 May.
The Golden Scarab is this month’s book in my YA and MG Time Travel Challenge; it could well be my Kid Lit Blog Hop post too!