A big, baggy book that will appeal to only the most passionate ancient Egypt buffs.

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CONSORT OF THE FEMALE PHARAOH

HAT-SHEP-SUT, SENEN-MUT AND EGYPT'S 18TH DYNASTY

Class warfare and women’s liberation come to ancient Egypt in Stovall’s (Cassandra’s Curse, 2010) new historical fiction.

In ancient Egypt, the ruling religious and political forces rely on the separation of classes as the bulwark of their power. It’s heresy, for instance, to teach commoners that they may have any lot in life other than to serve the pharaoh. Senen-Mut is a commoner—a wealthy, promising young man, but a commoner nonetheless. Yet he catches the eye of the local leader and is chosen to study at the Royal School. There, he and young Princess Hat-Shep-Sut fall in love and begin a complex relationship that ties them together for the rest of their lives. Hat-Shep-Sut ascends to the pharaoh’s throne, vexing the conservative leaders, and Senen-Mut rises on to an illustrious military career. Meanwhile, Egypt is in a state of war, constantly defending and redefining its borders. Stovall draws deeply on historical sources to tell his story, set more than 3,000 years ago during Egypt’s 18th dynasty. (Hat-Shep-Sut and Senen-Mut are real historical figures, and historians have speculated on their romantic relationship). Unfortunately, storytelling itself often plays second fiddle to historical detail, turning what must have been very exciting lives into a rather tedious read. Characters sometimes act with very little motivation beyond historical necessity, and they fade in and out of the story, making it easy to forget the main story arc. Senen-Mut and Hat-Shep-Sut even disappear from the narrative for long stretches. This long, rangy book covers decades of action, but it’s oddly paced, often covering far too much ground in short, choppy paragraphs. Beyond the structure, there’s a desperate need for copy editing, with persistent punctuation, grammatical and spelling errors, as well as the odd but consistent italicization of certain proper names. A disciplined editor could help bring this epic story to life.

A big, baggy book that will appeal to only the most passionate ancient Egypt buffs.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-1479344895

Page Count: 370

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2013

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THE BOOK THIEF

When Death tells a story, you pay attention. Liesel Meminger is a young girl growing up outside of Munich in Nazi Germany, and Death tells her story as “an attempt—a flying jump of an attempt—to prove to me that you, and your human existence, are worth it.” When her foster father helps her learn to read and she discovers the power of words, Liesel begins stealing books from Nazi book burnings and the mayor’s wife’s library. As she becomes a better reader, she becomes a writer, writing a book about her life in such a miserable time. Liesel’s experiences move Death to say, “I am haunted by humans.” How could the human race be “so ugly and so glorious” at the same time? This big, expansive novel is a leisurely working out of fate, of seemingly chance encounters and events that ultimately touch, like dominoes as they collide. The writing is elegant, philosophical and moving. Even at its length, it’s a work to read slowly and savor. Beautiful and important. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: March 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-83100-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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