A young pistol-packing American girl accompanies her uncle, a wealthy British archaeologist, on a Victorian-era quest up the Nile.
Using a device that’s also central to her fantasy trilogy (The Dragon of Despair, 2003, etc.), Lindskold puts Jenny Benet, an orphan with survival skills honed on the American frontier, on a dangerous quest that has to do, ironically and dramatically, with notions of innocence, inheritance, and femininity. After her parents are lost in an Indian raid, Jenny travels to England to meet her uncle, Sir Neville Hawthorne. Some twenty years previously, Sir Neville was knighted for assisting a relative of Prince Albert’s escape from a desert tribe guarding the tomb of Pharaoh Neferankhotep. Now Sir Neville wants to return to solve peculiar mysteries surrounding the pharaoh, including the possibility that Neferankhotep was the biblical Moses. Competing for Sir Neville’s attention is Lady Audrey Cheshire, who also wants to make a name as an Egyptologist. After assembling a crew of servants and scholars, Sir Neville departs with Jenny for Egypt. En route, he receives coded letters from an enigmatic character named Sphinx warning him to stay away, and for about two hundred pages, the novel resembles one of Agatha Christie’s archaeological mysteries as Jenny and Sir Nigel try to guess who among their retinue or those awaiting them in Egypt is increasingly making threats, culminating in a knife attack by a figure costumed as Anubis, the jackal-headed Egyptian god of the dead. Sharp shooting from Jenny saves Sir Neville’s life, but Sphinx’s identity isn’t revealed until Sir Nigel locates the tomb and finds himself reunited with Lady Audrey and her competing expedition. Bedouin tribesmen lock everyone inside, where a supernatural presence takes them on a cosmic voyage—with real-world dangers—to a divine judgment putting the entire science of archaeology on trial.
Slow-paced and dialogue-heavy, as is typical for Lindskold, with a wildly unbelievable climax that undercuts strongly realistic beginnings.