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SOL INVICTUS by Ben  Gartner


From the Eye of Ra series, volume 2

by Ben Gartner

Pub Date: Feb. 2nd, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-73415-523-5
Publisher: Crescent Vista Press

In Gartner’s middle-grade sequel, two siblings are catapulted to ancient Rome, tasked with uniting sworn enemies.

Thankful that their unexpected sojourn in ancient Egypt is behind them—as recounted in The Eye of Ra (2019)—12-year-old Sarah and her brother, John, who’s a few years younger, don’t anticipate anything out of the ordinary when they visit the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., to see a special exhibition on the Roman Empire. They certainly don’t expect to encounter Aten, the time-traveling Egyptian tomb robber from their previous adventure. Aten, having “seen the light of Ra,” tells them it’s the will of “the gods” that the siblings must use John’s key to the past—a mystical Eye of Ra pendant—and travel to ancient Rome to bring together Roman emperor Constantius and Crocus, the leader of the Germanic Alemanni, as allies. If they fail, Aten says, “the world as you know it is in grave danger.” Once again, Gartner deftly weaves real-life history into a compelling adventure, offering high-stakes, realistic danger and vivid scene-setting. He also convincingly portrays Sarah’s and John’s emotions along the way. Sarah is shown to be impatient with John’s timidity, and she feels guilty for aspects of the Egypt adventure. Her preadolescent angst confuses John; after all, hadn’t they bonded in Egypt while “dodging cobras and scorpions”? John, however, discovers new confidence in the face of peril that includes a mountain trek, wild animals in an arena, and two mysterious figures, who seem to know all about John’s pendant. (Humorously, a servant marvels at John’s athletic shoes, assuming that he worships Nike, the Greek goddess of victory.) The question of why gods of the ancient world chosen Sarah and John for world-saving missions remains unanswered, but may be tackled in future adventures. At the end of the book, the author writes about his inspirations for the book’s historic characters and setting, separating fact from fiction. Also included is a recipe for libum, the sweet dessert that John and others enjoy during their ancient Rome adventure.

A dynamic and informative time-travel fantasy with relatable young characters.