Thursday, May 16, 2013

"24 Bones" - Michael F. Stewart (Tribute Books Blog Tour)

Every five hundred years the phoenix dies.

Samiya, born-into-shadow, is soon to battle her born-into-light brother. Abandoned by their parents, neither wishes to play the preordained role of beast and hero. When their loved ones are taken hostage, they are forced to follow the path laid out in myth, culminating in a battle first fought six thousand years ago in ancient Cairo. A mythic clash where one defeats the other and both become gods.

To break free from their fates, Samiya and her brother must unravel a mystery twisted by cults, greed, and magic. But myth is a powerful force and failure to live up to it may not only destroy their lives but the lives of the ones they love most.

When the phoenix dies, the only certainty is flames.

After crewing ships in the Antarctic and the Baltic Sea and some fun in venture capital, Michael anchored himself (happily) to a marriage and a boatload of kids. Now he injects his adventurous spirit into his writing with brief respites for research into the jungles of Sumatra and Guatemala, the ruins of Egypt and Tik’al, paddling the Zambezi and diving whatever cave or ocean reef will have him. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers and SF Canada, and the author of the Assured Destruction series, 24 Bones, The Sand Dragon, Hurakan, Ruination and several award winning graphic novels for young adults.

My husband and brother are both fairly well steeped in Egyptian mythology.  My brother spent hours when we were young trying to decipher hieroglyphs in books that we got from school, and my husband is generally interested in any and all mythology.  While I've not had as intense a curiousity about such, I've absorbed some knowledge about Egyptian mythology simply from being around the nerdy males in my life. This work deals heavily with Egyptian mythology come to life in modern times, and draws parallels between Egyptian myth and one of my favorite books - The Bible - in ways that I didn't expect.  Hmmmm.

The Good
Working ancient mythology into modern times is tricky business.  There are infinite details to attend to, things to work on making sense in modern tech, etc.  Stewart did an awesome job at weaving mythology into modern life.  Several strands of a story happening simultaneously is also tricky business as it can be difficult to show what happens at the same time in different places and when they come together, etc.  Yet Stewart did a superb job at this as well.

Characters?  They stay true to self and pull some twists that I didn't see coming.  Now, I like it when works are keeps readers on their toes (in a good way, I hope).  However, as the literary world marches on, it can be hard to do something that is unpredictable.  I think we've all had an experience of watching or reading something and then going "I know what is going to happen - she is going to kiss him, or vice versa, and there will be a happily ever after and some mushy stuff, or she is the killer they're looking for" and spoiling the ending for ourselves before it has begun.  This book?  Unpredictable in a way that kept me reading because I needed to know what happened next, but not in a "will the da** author make up his feathering mind already?" way.  

Plot?  Like I said, it is unpredictable in a way that is refreshing and awesome.  I didn't know how the book was going to end, which was cool.  Suspense?  Oh heck yeah!  Frankly, I didn't know if the good guys were going to make it out of the ending scenario alive or not, which side would win the epic battle, how closely of the modern rendition of ancient mythology would mirror that ancient mythology, etc.  I was on the edge of my seat (figuratively at least) throughout most of this work and was super glad that I was reading it on a Kindle so I couldn't skip ahead a few pages to see who was still alive and who was not.  Gripping story, good suspense, a fine read.

Oh, and this was grammar error free!!  /somersault!!

Oh - how could I nearly forget? - there is a really intriguing parallel between Christianity and Egyptian mythology found in this work that piqued my interest.  From my studies, I know that Christianity borrows some mythical elements from Babylonian works...but Egyptian?  I want to investigate this further...

Obviously this is a well-researched book, and for that it gets extra kudos.

The Bugly (bad/ugly)
Yeah yeah, I nitpick, but there are no perfect books (not even the Bible, but don't get me going on that right now).  

First, Things move too freaking fast.  My head was whirling during much of this as I tried to keep places, names, and things straight.  Part of it was that Stewart uses Egyptian language names and such, which is a good thing and true to form, but turned into something supremely confusing to me in a few places.  What?  Where? Why?

Second, the mythology is off in a few places.  A major artifact chooses a new "prophet" every five hundred years: Jesus, Mohammad, Moses, etc.  The problem is that Jesus, Mohammad, and Moses (those aren't in the right chronological order here) are not neatly 500 years apart from each other.  The time frame separating Jesus and Mohammad is approximately 600 years. Yeah yeah yeah, works of fiction don't have to be completely historically accurate, I know.  This detail bugged me, though.

Third, some things happen that just don't make sense.  I can't elaborate on this too much for fear of spoilers, but where in the heck was the food for thousands of crocodiles and hounds coming from?  I'm sure that would have been noticed by someone.  How exactly did that person get buried in sand at the end?  What?

On the whole, I think this is a good book, though perhaps should be ready by someone who has some foreknowledge of Egyptian mythology so that some contents make more sense.  While it is explained fairly well, for someone with limited knowledge of Egyptian mythology, like myself, this work is a tad confusing.  Still, a good active, engaging read.  Not my favorite read of the year so far, but not my least favorite.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I give this book a 8.  


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  1. Hi, Nora, thanks for the review. All your reviews cover so much ground without spoilers. To be honest, I am always concerned that someone of the Christian faith will be upset by this book and love that you saw it as something to look deeper into rather than an affront. Two quick explanations on the sand and food because the answers are cool (for readers this will be obscure due to spoilers!). On the sand front, researchers actually believe that it's possibly filled with sand rather than stone blocks. Neat! On the food front, it comes from the Zabbaleen--the Garbage People--which have a symbiotic relationship with the Shemsu Seth. I should have gone into more detail! Thanks again, I love your reviews whether they be 1s 6s or 10s.

  2. Nora, what a treat that you came into this book with a knowledgable background in Egyptian mythology thanks to your brother and husband. I can tell it made your reading experience of Michael's novel that much more enjoyable. Thanks for the review :)

  3. Hey Michael - gotcha, that makes sense! I am definitely a Christian (work in a church and everything), and was not made upset by this book, so no worries! I could tell that you've done your research and weren't just totally pulling nonsense out of the air, and when I was in seminary I heard some parallels between Biblical narratives and Egyptian mythology, which makes some sense given that Egypt figured heavily into Biblical history. :) Not kidding though, I want to research more and likely will at some point soon. :)