Set against the glory and tragedy of ancient Roman Egypt, this novel brings to bring to life the greatest love story of all time.
Sixteen-year-old Hal Stevens is a budding historical scholar from a small town in Colorado. A virtual outcast at high school, he has only two friends: Roberto the Biker Witch and Cleo Mallawi. Cleo claims to be the reincarnation of Queen Cleopatra. She also believes she’s being stalked by an ancient Egyptian demon, Ammut, the Devourer of the Dead.
But when Hal and Roberto find Cleo murdered in the forest near her home, it appears she may have been telling the truth. Her last request sends them journeying to Egypt with famed archaeologist Dr. James Moriarity, where it quickly becomes clear that Cleo has set them on the search of a lifetime: the search for the lost graves of Marc Antony and Cleopatra.
But they are not alone in their search. Cleo’s murderers are watching their every move. And not all of them are human…
I hate to say that this book was very disappointing, I was expecting quite a bit from it. I saw that intriguing cover with hieroglyphics and had to see what it was about. Then I read the description and um..excuse me? “This standalone fantasy brings an ancient Egyptian mystery to life against a modern background, in a tale expertly crafted by a seasoned anthropologist.” This was literally screaming my name because all my life I’ve been fascinated with Ancient Egypt and Egyptian mythology and I was obsessed with it when I was a child. This brought back those feelings of nostalgia and I was so freaking excited to give this a read. I was expecting it to be more focused on the Ancient Egypt aspect and have a lot more lore and myth within its pages. Unfortunately, this was not the case and I was left with a very unsatisfying read.
First of all, as far as I could tell this was being pushed as a more adult book which it did not feel like at all. This felt a lot more like YA and at times the writing even felt a tad Middle Grade-ish to me, which is fine of course, but not really what I wanted when a book is being advertised as Adult. The writing, aside from feeling immature at times, was just sort of odd and didn’t flow very well. The story and the dialogue all felt sort of jumbled together and choppy. An example of something that bothered me was some of the word usage. Such as, the word “trotted” was used to describe movement WAY too often. The reason I bring this up at all is to show you HOW MUCH IT FREAKING BOTHERED ME! I’m serious. That word itself was used so much to the point where it was actually driving me crazy while reading. “Hal trotted towards the stairs”, “He trotted to the tent”, etc. Use some other words! “Walked”, “Ran”, “Scrambled”, “Scurried”. I don’t know! Just quit saying the characters were “trotting” everywhere. So yes, I was not a huge fan of the writing or style at all.
The story itself was, again, a huge jumble. The main reason I was excited to read this book was for the Egyptian mythology and we got so little of it that I felt cheated almost. Whenever there was any Egyptian myth, lore or history it was essentially info-dumped onto me and that made things even less exciting. The story would constantly be all over the place too, whether it was Hal and Roberto’s escapades at home in America or in Egypt or flashbacks of Cleopatra and Marc Antony, it was a mess. I just felt confused about WHAT the story was actually supposed to be about because there was history and fact and then randomly throw some myth and magic in for the sake of doing so. A lot of the time magic was actually used as an excuse for some sort of plot point or to easily explain something without actually explaining something. I could not even begin to tell you how magic or myth was actually supposed to fit into this story.
On top of being mostly a confusing mess, the plot was also extremely unbelievable. Which says a lot considering magic and myth were involved and this was supposed to be a FANTASY novel. Such as the main character, Hal, being essentially forced into taking a trip to Egypt after finding his best friend brutally murdered in the woods instead of allowing him to grieve. Yes, that makes perfect sense and oh, take your other friend with you for no reason other than to have another character there. On top of that the ending was absolutely over the top, I can’t even. I don’t actually want to spoil anything so I won’t say exactly what happened but it felt so hasty and thrown together and further solidified my opinion that nothing made sense and the story didn’t actually know what it wanted to be.
And as if all of that wasn’t bad enough, it’s extremely slow paced and I felt very bored once I got further into reading the book. Boring, confusing, messy, and poor writing. It did not have much going for it and even after finishing it all the way up until the end I still feel that way. Although I will give it props for being decent enough for me to finish instead of just DNF’ing it.
The main character is Hal, interested in Egyptian history and Cleo, who is his best friend that believes she is the reincarnation of Queen Cleopatra. Cleo is murdered, by a demon that only Hal saw, and thus Hal is thrust on a quest to Egypt with his tag-along friend, Roberto to free Cleopatra’s soul. Hal was pretty boring and I don’t believe any of the characters had any level of complexity, they all felt like cardboard cutouts. The adult characters were hardly even there and when they were, they felt so….fake. The book’s only saving grace is Hal’s friend, Roberto, honestly. He was hilarious and actually had a personality, easily my favorite part of the book.
Honestly, I don’t even want to get going on this either. Hal had a crush on Cleo, which leads him on this entire journey essentially. This goes hand in hand with the flashbacks and over arcing plot point of Marcus Antony and Cleopatra’s relationship. I don’t want to spoil a whole lot of the story but their romantic relationship is probably one of the only plot points I could actually hold onto while reading and is generally what the book is supposed to be about. Yes, it’s a romantic concept. However, the whole thing with Hal and Cleo just never made any sense to me, it’s just sort of…there.
What I Loved:
- The little bit of Egyptian mythology and history that were present.
What I Didn’t Love:
- Poor, slow pacing.
- Writing was choppy and didn’t flow well.
- Story felt like a jumble and didn’t know what it wanted to be.
- Magic and myth were used as an easy excuse or explain-away.
- Info dumping.
- Aspects of the story were over the top and unbelievable.
- Characters were flat .
Overall this story didn’t have a lot of redeemable qualities for me and felt boring and messy. None are more disappointed than I with this book, trust me, I expected something very different than what I got. I can’t say I recommend this book at all, especially if you’re like me thinking “Oh, Egyptian mythology and history, fun!”. Don’t do it. I gave this a two star rating purely for Roberto and the fact that I managed to finish the whole thing.
Trigger Warnings: Death, Murder
**** Huge thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ****