Author: Fiona Ingram
Year published: 2008
Number of pages: 272
Recommended age: 10+
Kid's Rating: ★★★★★
Grown-up's Rating: ★★★★★
Reviewed by: Renee and Erik (a Mom and a Son – just not from the same family!)
Summary (Amazon): A 5000-year-old mystery comes to life when a scruffy peddler gives Adam and Justin Sinclair an old Egyptian scarab on their very first day in Egypt. Only when the evil Dr. Faisal Khalid shows a particular interest in the cousins and their scarab, do the boys realise they are in terrible danger. Dr. Khalid wants the relic at all costs. Justin and Adam embark upon the adventure of a lifetime, taking them down the Nile and across the harsh desert in their search for the legendary tomb of the Scarab King, an ancient Egyptian ruler. They are plunged into a whirlpool of hazardous and mysterious events when Dr. Khalid kidnaps them. They learn more about the ancient Seven Stones of Power and the mysterious Shemsu-Hor. They must translate the hieroglyphic clues on the underside of the scarab, as well as rescue the missing archaeologist James Kinnaird, and their friend, the Egyptologist Ebrahim Faza, before time runs out!
A Teaser From Erik: It pretty much had everything me (as a boy) would want in a book – danger, mystery, legends, an exciting setting, myths and much more.
What it’s about: Ms. Ingram spins a thrilling, rip-roaring tale centred on two pre-teen cousins, Adam and Justin, who go on vacation to Egypt with their aunt Isabel and their grandmother. Hoping for an adventure, they get more than they bargained for when they stumble upon a millenia-old mystery plunging them into grave danger. Adam and Justin must immerse themselves in Egyptian history and use their wits to solve the puzzle of the scarab and do battle with smugglers in order to find the tomb of the Scarab King and rescue the kidnapped archaelogist, James Kinnaird.
What I liked and disliked: Wow! That was an action-packed story! I loved how Ms. Ingram just dove right into the story. From the time that Adam is given the scarab to the time that Adam and Justin return home, there is non-stop action. Through Ms. Ingram’s fantastic writing skills, I was able to visualize all of the events as they were occurring. I can totally see the story in this book transformed into a screenplay for the big screen. I think it’s a fabulous story filled with mystery, intrigue, and action.
We recently reviewed another book with Egypt as the setting and which also included “Scarab” in the title, The Golden Scarab by SW Lothian. In that review, I highlight how I enjoyed reading about Egyptian mythology. The Secret of the Sacred Scarab is quite different from that book in that the focus is more on Egyptian history rather than Egyptian mythology. For example, in The Golden Scarab there are supernatural elements such as when the statues of the Egyptian Gods come to life; whereas in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, there is less suspension of disbelief with perhaps the most unusual element being the glowing of the hieroglyphics on the pyramidion. I can’t say that I enjoyed one book more than the other. They were equally enjoyable.
Aside from the main plot, the two main characters Adam and Justin were entirely likable and relatable and the interaction between them as cousins who have known each other their whole lives was completely believable. In addition to Adam and Justin, Ms. Ingram has assembled a memorable cast of supporting characters such the stern investigative journalist Aunt Isabel; the quirky but tough Grandmother; the evil protaganist Dr. Khalid; the mysterious Ebrahim who is charged with protecting the tomb of the Scarab King; as well as the diverse group of tourists who accompany Adam and Justin on their trip to magnificent Egypt. The attention to developing each of these characters without losing the main plot line was excellent.
I’m all for suspending disbelief when immersing myself in a story steeped in mystique and folklore, but there was just one event that didn’t quite fit. When Justin and Adam return to home to South Africa after their trip to Egypt, they tell their respective classes all about their adventures with the expectation that nobody believes them. Without giving away too much, they get a surprise visit minutes after Adam shares his story that essentially validates his story, much to the surprise of his classmates and teacher. Of all the things the events that occur in the book, I don’t know why that particular snippet was less believable, but it felt a bit contrived (although I understand how it serves a purpose in setting up the next book). It was not by any stretch of the imagination a big issue, it just made an impression on me because that’s essentially how the book ends.
One final note, there is some violence in this book. Adam and Justin are in real danger throughout the book and they, along with other characters, are threatened with death by Dr. Khalid. There are guns and knives involved in the story with one person getting shot by a gun and one (minor) character dying a not-so-nice death.
My bottom line: Once I started reading this book, I couldn’t put it down. It is a non-stop rollicking adventure filled with mystery, peril, and intrigue all set within the backdrop of culturally and historically rich Egypt. Due to the violence in the book, I would recommend this book to boys and girls aged 10+.
The Secret of the Sacred Scarab was provided to us by the author free-of-charge in exchange for our honest review.
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