Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Walk like an Egyptian…

Jake Ransom and the Howling Sphinx
by James Rollins

James Rollins is a natural-born storyteller, of that there can be no doubt. As a long-time fan of his adult novels, I have absolutely no problem embracing a whiz-bang of a YA page-turner, and this one’s a doozy! The story began in Rollins’ YA debut, Jake Ransom and the Skull King’s Shadow. Mr. Rollins helpfully recaps the highlights of the first book, but I really think you’re going to want to read these books in order. As you may have gathered, Jake Ransom and his sister Kady are back. This book picks up their story just three months after the events of the first. The VVV (Vaguely Voldemortian Villain) that they defeated in the first novel is still gunning for them. In fact, a brief prologue set in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings involves the discovery of an ancient artifact and ends with these ominous words: “With this, I will make Jake Ransom suffer.”

Meanwhile, after barely escaping the lost world of Calypsos with their lives, both Jake and Kady have taken a sudden interest in self-defense. Jake studies tae kwon do, and when not cheerleading, Kady fences. The last book ended with a small clue to the fate of their missing archeologist parents. But suddenly others want to get their hands on the clue that Jake and Kady found. Something is definitely up. And the two have a strong suspicion that it has to do with an Egyptian exhibit that’s about to open in New York. They’re correct, as an artifact in the exhibit turns out to be the lock that fits their key—and abruptly they’re transported… Not back to Calypsos. They’ve landed in a scorching hot desert, in a land very much like Egypt—if Egypt had velociraptors!

I don’t want to tell much more. The fun is in the twists and turns, the thrills and chills. And, believe me, there are plenty! The pace of the novel gallops along breathlessly (much like a kid running from a dinosaur). Rollins introduced such terrific characters in the first novel, you’ll be happy to hear that even though the setting has changed, many of those characters are back. And there’s something so sweet about the relationships and interactions of these young protagonists, most of who are still at the hand-holding stage of life. Despite their youth, however, this is an impressive group. The adult characters don’t talk down to them. In addition to the returning friends, several new characters are introduced in this book, but none is more endearing than the wisling. I’m in love!

Always the most important relationship, and the catalyst for these stories, is Jake and Kady’s search for their parents. There are more questions, but also more answers in this latest installment. It ends with plenty of foreshadowing for the next novel and beyond. (“A great war is coming, spreading across time.”) I believe I heard there will be seven books in this series. Who knows where Jake, Kady, and I will be in our lives before it’s all over? One thing I do know is that I’ll be along for the duration of this wild, time-traveling ride!


  1. What age bracket/grade range would you put these in? Would they be too tough for fifth grade level readers? Do you think a high schooler would enjoy the characters, or is it aimed at somewhere between the two groups?

  2. Hey Care,

    That's a good question, and one I'm getting a lot. I tossed it back to the author, and he wrote:

    For Jake: it's classified as Middle School, which is generally 9 to 99

    I've heard from younger readers (under 9) who also enjoy it, but the target is 9-plus.


    Speaking for myself, I'm 42 and I've really enjoyed these books, but I'm not sure how open I would have been to reading a "kid's" book when I was a teenager. I think I would have, but it really depends on the teenager.