I saw this book in Waterstones last year when it was released and was immediately drawn to it; not only for its wonderful cover but its subject matter too. Ancient Egypt! The 1920s! A curse! 'Secrets of a Sun King'! This seemed like a refreshing story, but I've only just got around to reading it. My conclusion: it's fabulous! 

I have seen reviews claiming Emma Carroll is the queen of children's historical fiction. She's certainly the Cleopatra here. Carroll has that masterly knack of bringing to life history without it being swamped with detail. I admire writers who can do this so effortlessly and Carroll is one them. What may not be immediately obvious, is that this is probably more about the 1920s reflecting, to some degree, issues today. Feminism, colonialism, education, race, friendship are all explored through the lens of the 20s, which is just so gloriously evoked. Mostly it comes through the characters, who are so clear in my mind, and whose dialogue propels the mystery at the heart of the story. Like the very best children's authors, Carroll is not afraid to explore deeper issues and also present the reader with some pretty gruesome and graphic incidents, which kids will love of course! 

This is 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' meets 'The Mummy' meets some wonderful child characters. I would love to see Lillian, Tulip and Oz on another adventure, reporting on other exciting discoveries. Maybe the Incas?


© 2021 by Chris Soul