From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8-A story set in Alexandria, Egypt, in 45 B.C. Damon's mother has just died, and because the priests believe she had the plague, they refuse to touch her. It is then up to Damon, who studied at the medical school, to embalm her. After his friend Artemas convinces him that he must deliver the news of his mother's death to his Roman-soldier father, who is off fighting with Caesar, the two young men set off for the battlefields of Spain. They set sail on a merchant ship that sinks in a vortex, jump ship just in time, suffer extreme hardships, and are rescued by Cleopatra. She persuades them to spy for her in return for safe passage to Spain, and Damon is eventually reunited with his long-lost father. There are many references to Egyptian gods, architecture, and daily life that leave readers needing some background to understand the context. While the story is slow to get going, the action picks up quickly after the teens are attacked by sharks. There are several gruesome scenes that may appeal to certain readers, including a detailed depiction of the embalming process, a gory day at the Circus Maximus, and the medical tent on the battlefield. While the plot coincidences are entirely too perfect, the story does work as an action adventure for reluctant readers, and there is enough historical minutiae to encourage further reading.Angela J. Reynolds, Washington County Cooperative Library Services, Aloha, OR
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Set in the Roman Empire in 45 B.C., this action-filled story is not for the faint of heart. The book begins with Damon, a young medical student, weeping over the death of his Egyptian mother. Damon wants to honor his mother's wishes, so when the embalmers refuse to prepare her body for burial, he mummifies her himself. Then, together with his friend Artemas, Damon sets off to find his father, a soldier in Caesar's army. Along the way, their ship sinks, and the duo is almost eaten by sharks. They are rescued by Cleopatra, who sends them off to spy on Cicero, Caesar's enemy. In a dramatic denouement, Damon meets his father (and Caesar) at a battlefield hospital, where he tries to sort out his feelings for the man he has not seen in six years. The book's fast pace (and, frankly, some of its gore) will appeal to readers who relish exciting stories. Rubalcaba also does a good job with the characterizations, especially her depiction of the relationship between the friends. Try this with boys who don't think they like historical fiction. Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved