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BONE DRY by Kathleen Karr

BONE DRY

By Kathleen Karr

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-7868-0776-8
Publisher: Hyperion

It isn’t easy being assistant to Dr. Asa B. Cornwall, phrenologist, flimflam artist, and genius. In the midst of a happy apprenticeship to some of Paris’s great illusionists, 14-year-old Matthew Morrissey is wrenched away to assist the good doctor in his quest to discover the lost skull of Alexander the Great. Across Egypt they go in a camel caravan led by the able Hussein—but nothing associated with Dr. A. B. C. ever goes smoothly. First, they nearly perish in a sandstorm, then, they are taken by slavers; when the slave caravan pauses to rest in a mysterious desert fortress, Matthew puts his newfound skills of showmanship and illusion to the test to free both himself and the doctor, as well as the Asanti taken captive by the slavers. There is an awful lot going on here, what with slavers and desert oases and a mystical jinn who appears to protect Matthew from harm and Nathalie, the beautiful daughter of an Egyptian tycoon. In this sequel to Skullduggery (2000), Karr’s nearly perfect comic timing keeps the plot dancing along, although the reader is asked to accept some credibility-stretchers, including Matthew’s extraordinary linguistic prowess—he learns Arabic in a matter of months—and the impossibly ancient guardian of the fortress. Fans of the first story may be sorry to see the genial old quack relegated to a thoroughly supporting role, while new readers may be puzzled at only half-explained references to the previous work. There is no historical note to contextualize the 1840s North African setting, and there is a definite tendency to depict the Arab and Tuareg characters as Oriental exotics. Still, readers with a willingness to surrender their disbelief will enjoy this offering for the swashbuckling, occasionally bloody, and frequently hilarious adventure it is. (Fiction. 10-14)