Jake Ransom and the Howling Sphinx by James Rollins
James Rollins has hit upon a truly brilliant premise in this series. People and creatures from our world have been transported at various times to a savage, prehistoric place called Calypsos, and in the first volume, Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow Jake and his sister find themselves suddenly whisked to a city where Romans, Mayans, Neanderthals and groups from many other societies, places and eras live more or less peaceably side by side. Their archaeologist parents disappeared three years before, and the two young people's struggles to survive, and to defeat Kalverum Rex, the Skull King, go side by side with their hope of finding a trace there of their mother and father.
|Jake Ransom and the Howling Sphinx by James Rollins|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Jake and Kady travel once again to a land beyond this world, where evil reigns and a priceless ruby, the Eye of Ra, is sought by their old enemy the Skull King. It will take all their courage and resources to escape his clutches and save the two universes.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: July 2011|
|Publisher: Orion Children's Books|
|External links: Author's website|
This time, led a watch which they discovered in the first book, they find themselves in another part of Pangaea which has a strongly Egyptian flavour to it (not to mention a few added excitements like velociraptors), and to their relief the bracelets of Atlantean metal they all wear also bring their friends from Calypsos to help them. They encounter the princess Nefertiti, escape the palace torture dungeons (delicate readers might want to skip this bit!) and manage, in a breath-taking balloon flight, to cross to the Great Wind which surrounds and imprisons this world.
In the hope that he might find a clue to the whereabouts of his parents Jake has thrown himself into the study of archaeology, and his knowledge is invaluable as the group of friends meet danger after danger. Indeed, the books are filled with all manner of detail about other cultures, but not in a heavy-handed way: the stories are primarily rip-roaring adventures right from the heart-stopping opening pages, and information is only given if it is relevant to the plot. There are intriguing elements like the cryptic Atlantean language James Rollins has created so that keen readers can translate messages giving hints and suggestions of future adventures, and fascinating explorations of how an ancient culture might adapt its traditions to a new environment. But at all times Jake's learning is well balanced by cheerleader Kady's athleticism and fashion sense, and it is she who wins over the haughty Nefertiti by her display of sword fighting skills. There's even a faint whiff of romance as the Roman centurion's son Pindar Tiberius falls for the Egyptian princess, but be reassured: the situation provides comedy rather than any sloppy love scenes.
Stereotypes are challenged or simply ignored in this excellent series. Jake can fight with the best of them, but it is his apparently air-headed sister who has the real gift for combat. Marika Balam, the Mayan girl from Calypsos, is as tough and brave as Jake, and it is Bach'uuk, the Neanderthal and fifth member of the group, who displays the maturity and wisdom they need to get through their adventures.
Readers who enjoy thrilling tales and exotic settings will love this book, and will be delighted to discover that although this particular adventure is over at the end of the book, more are promised, including one with a Norse theme. And in the meantime, there's plenty of material here to explore about all manner of cultures and creatures. Well worth reading, and a rich source of inspiration for long lazy summer days.
Many thanks to Orion for sending us this excellent book.
Further reading suggestion: Although it is perfectly possible to read this book without reading the first in the series, Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow, it's much more fun if you read them in order, if only to see how Kady uses her cheerleading skills! And older readers, especially those with strong stomachs, might want to try TimeRiders: Day of the Predator by Alex Scarrow, where a group of young people from different eras are brought together to stop villains who want to meddle with time.
You can read more book reviews or buy Jake Ransom and the Howling Sphinx by James Rollins at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Jake Ransom and the Howling Sphinx by James Rollins at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.