Published: August 11th 2015 by Delacorte Press
Genres: YA romance, Contemporary, Mythology, Adventure
Alright! Sarah’s first ‘real’ week of school is over ~ only 37 more weeks to go…
Summary (from Goodreads): When seventeen-year-old Lilliana Young enters the Metropolitan Museum of Art one morning during spring break, the last thing she expects to find is a live Egyptian prince with godlike powers, who has been reawakened after a thousand years of mummification.
And she really can’t imagine being chosen to aid him in an epic quest that will lead them across the globe to find his brothers and complete a grand ceremony that will save mankind.
But fate has taken hold of Lily, and she, along with her sun prince, Amon, must travel to the Valley of the Kings, raise his brothers, and stop an evil, shape-shifting god named Seth from taking over the world.
“This water is more delicious than the soft kisses from the daubed lips of a dozen nubile maidens”
What was alive and what should be buried in a tomb?
So I actually read this book 2 weeks ago, but unlike my last review, this book took me a lot more time to write – time I needed to reflect on what really bothered me.
I loved Colleen Houck’s other series, The Tiger’s Curse. When she announced the last book in that particular series, I was thrilled, and when she announced another series, I was over the moon. When Goodreads was updated with the new summary – and I realized that this new series was set in Egypt, I lost my mind.
Now, I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it before (like here, here and here); but I’m Egyptian. Coupled with the fact that Mrs. Houck wrote a series I adored, I was genuinely excited. I couldn’t wait for my culture, people, and yummy food to be represented (it’s not like I expected a mega in-depth look, but including some aspects would be nice). Egyptian mythology was always interesting to read.
So why did I not enjoy the book?
I’ve narrowed it down to a factor of cliches, while entertaining to a reader who knows nothing about the culture (cough cough Sarah cough cough Hindu myths/religions cough cough Tiger’s Curse), may be extremely insulting to a member of that culture and can be viewed as cultural appropriation (See the amazing Nafiza’s essay here: it really does explain the situation well). I’m not saying that the book really insulted, or offended me – it’s just that there was so much potential, and endless possibilities.
The story starts off in the Big Apple, with our protagonist, Lily, who mentions how rich and pretty and unhappy she is – like a million times. She continues on, internally monologue-ing the reader, explaining how she only feels herself and happy when people watching in a museum. She then mentions a million more times (I know I’m exaggerating) how sad and lonely and bored she is : something that definitely grated on my nerves, and was not a great start. She is completely self-centered and boring.
(I know a lot of reviewers took umbrage at the fact the she was another ‘white’ character: why couldn’t she be partly Egyptian, or foreign were questions commonly posed. To keep this review on topic, I’ll say this; her race wasn’t the main problem.)
To add to the not so great start, I could predict the first ten chapters by the time I finished the first. Blah blah blah – She enters the closed section of the museum, and then somehow the definitely NOT hot mummy somehow transforms into a HOT mummy guy (we all know he’s hot- most YA books are allergic to featuring normal dudes). The obviously don’t understand each other until said mummy guy uses magic, but she’s too scared to listen so instead of explaining his situation, mummy guy decides to… bond… to her.
I don’t know about anybody else, but I found that incredibly creepy. It also strikes me as the kind of thing people point out – if it was an ugly guy, you wouldn’t have found it as romantic.
Amon (the hot mummy dude’s name) might as well be a cardboard cut out. The quote I chose illustrates everything I find wrong with him, their relationship and the story.
Moving on, she finds him again after doing the only sensible action in the whole story (running away) and ends up taking care of him. She informs him about life in the 21st century, because he literally lived like 3 millennia ago. It’s so obvious that we are supposed to find his questions and her answers endearing, but they come off as cloying and very uninteresting. Throughout the mini NYC tour, she continues to complain about her rich life.
“I basically get a free rein and an unending supply of money as long as I don’t embarrass my parents and pick a major before entering in college. Did I mention that every Ivy League accepted me already? Geez, my life sucks!”
Lily via Sarah
Seriously, where can I get with her parents?
She finally stops whining when he persuades her to go to Egypt with him, to save the world and….
HER LIFE, because newsflash, when he creep bonded to her, he latched on like a parasite to her life force, and if he doesn’t get his own life force as well, she will be in major pain (and possible die if I remember correctly).
So far, so good.
Obviously, she agrees to go to Egypt, and then the whining, while it doesn’t stop, switches topics. He’s so hot. Am I pretty enough? Does he like me? What does it mean when he studies me with his green eyes, noble profile and bald-ish head (oh wait, he magically grew hair: can I run my hands through it?)…
Let’s take a moment to point out what was wrong with that paragraph (other than the fact the Lily has the Mary Sue self esteem issues that most YA romances incur). Amon’s description (said “Ah-moan“, and I’m not even kidding, that was legit line) is the YA template of hot guys. While that description might be fine if this was set in ancient Greece, this book is set in ancient Egypt. Some modern day Egyptians (like my dad, and unlike me) do have blue/green eyes, Amon’s ancient Egyptians will not have them. Based on what is said in the the book, his time was before anyone from Europe or Greece or Rome came and conquered (or at least reproduced with the locals). Therefore, Amon’s eyes should have been explained some other way, like magic. She also made no mention of his race : although he most likely was an Arab (that’s an ethnic group) or African (most likely Nubian). Mrs. Houck’s avoidance seemed to rely on typical YA tropes to describe her characters.
Anyhow, the reader is now in Egypt. Oh wow… how exotic- we can see the pyramids from the airport (NOT) and it’s so beautiful (if by beautiful you mean really muggy and dusty – then yes). I’m pretty sure they go straight to Hatshepsut’s Temple (which happens to be in Luxor/Aswan and NOT NEAR CAIRO).
Unlike the Tiger’s Curse, there was no brief interlude with the locals, no restaurants visited and no food or culture explained. I mean, it’s not like I was expecting her to present and in depth view of religion or politics, but representation of the population of the country the story is set in is kind of necessary. The lack of these minor details REALLY BUGGED ME.
I know that Egypt is a big country, but it’s really not that hard to Google “Egyptian Cuisine”. Heck, you don’t even need to write cuisine; food works just as well. Therefore, the lack of any descriptions (food or otherwise – exotic does not count and the next person to say that will be introduced to an Egyptian specialty : MY FIST) smacks of disrespect. The kind of disrespect that tells me, as a reader, and as a member of that culture (or generally, just knowledgeable about the subject matter) that the author does not value said subject matter, and views it as just another way to market the book. A cash grab, and not even one that tries to pretend it’s not. I mean, really?
Something else that rubbed me the wrong way was the mythology. Sure, it featured some of the common Egyptian gods, but other than that is was pulled out of thin air. I love mythologies (Greek, Norse and Egyptian) and I consider myself pretty well educated on those topics. The plot line of this story? Definitely something Colleen Houck made up – and while some people may applaud her creativity, I feel ripped off.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that is: how dare she market her book using Egypt, Ancient Egyptian mythology, and feature none of those aspects? Other than basically lying to her readers, she is remodeling a culture to suit her needs, regardless of the facts. The only thing she delivered was her romance… while interesting the first time around became stale and cliche 5 years later.
Suffice to say, the ending was very predictable (and open enough for a sequel). Nothing really picked up and the climax wasn’t much of ‘conflict resolution’. This feeling applies to the whole book, where a sense of urgency (or at least We-gotta-save-the-world ) is not present. I read the whole thing feeling detached… the too flowery and extremely cheesy dialogue and descriptions (see quote) annoyed me. Lily goes back to New York still in love, feminism has been murdered along with research, the hot guy has two other equally hot brothers (love square anyone?), and I am so done this book.
In retrospect, this review might seem harsh and I may be overly sensitive : so if anyone has read the book, please comment and tell me what you thought.