My nephews gave me this book to read, as they often do when they find something they really enjoy. I haven't read many good books set in ancient Egypt, so I was eager to see how well this one was written.
I really enjoyed this book. It was refreshing and uniquely voiced -- I thought the author did a lovely job of creating a sense of the very different culture explored in her story. The dialogue was appropriately...foreign
, but still understandable for young readers, and I enjoyed the wealth of information she provides about Egyptian culture and things like goldsmithing. I truly felt like I could feel
ancient Thebes as I was reading, both its charms and its horrors.
I did have a few qualms with the book. The most basic is that most of the novel is written in narration, deep in Ranofer's perspective...which some young readers might find overwhelming. (Not my nephews, but they're just sophisticated like that.;) We get some brief passages of fun dialogue, but they certainly don't make up the bulk of the story.
It also started rather slowly, building up our sense of Ranofer's terrible predicament gradually over several chapters before really launching into the "action" -- although, I think the story seems to be more about Ranofer's growth as a character than about chasing thieves, and so ultimately I don't really find the beginning inappropriate, let alone unskillful.
At any rate, for perhaps the first third of the book I was quite frustrated with Ranofer. I really wanted him to do something daring or brave, or even just curious. But then I really got a sense of why
McGraw did what she did, in showing how this timid, weak child grew and matured into someone who could bravely take the risks he needed to in order to change his life and stand up for justice. I think that is an incredibly important message for young readers. Sometimes courage isn't about not feeling any fear at all, it's about being willing to step past that fear and do what it is necessary anyway.
The other (minor) quibble I have is how abruptly McGraw introduced an alternate viewpoint very late in the book, after staying strictly in Ranofer's POV for the majority of the book. I wouldn't have minded so much if she had done so occasionally earlier in the story, but just adding another POV at the end felt a little contrived. That's a writerly complaint though, and I don't really think it detracted from the story very much at all.
On the whole, I thought this was a lovely story of courage and growth, and would definitely recommend it for young readers and those still young at heart.