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The Rosetta Key (Ethan Gage Adventures) Hardcover – April 22, 2008
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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"The Rosetta Key" continues the story of our hero, Ethan Gage, and his quest for the magical 'Book of Thoth.' This scroll of wisdom may have been stolen from the Great Pyramid by Moses and carried by the Jews to their new kingdom of Israel some three thousand years ago. Whoever holds it will have the power to dominate the world. The novel also continues the story of Napoleon Bonaparte, retracing his 1799 invasion of Syria from his base in Cairo, his defeat at the Siege of Acre, and his eventual abandonment of his army in Egypt. It follows the general's return to France, where he seized power in a coup in November of 1799.In the story, Napoleon's henchmen seize the Book of Thoth from Gage in Syria. Once back in France, the conqueror uses a hurried translation of key passages to bewitch the French Assembly into approving his accession to power. The Book, it seems, has become Napoleon's magic key, his grail. Ever the furtive thief, Gage manages to wrest the book back (and finally kills the central villain, Alessandro Silano) before Bonaparte can use its powers to assure his conquest of the world. It's then off to America for Gage, who sees his home country as the best hiding place.
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Napoleon's followers Count Alessandro Silano and his aide Pierre Najac declare Gage a dangerous traitor to France placing a price for his head. Knowing the peril he faces, Gage fears more for his former lover Astiza as a pawn if the lethal sorcerer Silano captures her. Thus he rushes to Jerusalem to keep her safe, which fits with his other quest perfectly as he follows clues in search of the revered legendary Book of Thoth, an ancient tome that allegedly knows the magical underlying secrets of the universe.
Using real persona, sites and events (not just Napoleon), William Dietrich writes a terrific historical thriller starring a late eighteenth century Hans Solo impish rogue. The story line is fast-paced but also brings alive the Holy Land. This is one series worth reading as Mr. Dietrich provides THE ROSETTA KEY to how Napoleon consolidated his power.
William Dietrich returns to the familiar genre of historical fiction as the background of this engaging and fast-moving novel. Even though THE ROSETTA KEY is a sequel to NAPOLEON'S PYRAMIDS, it may be enjoyed as a stand-alone tale. The hero this time is American adventurer Ethan Gage, who is sort of like a cross between Indiana Jones and Jack Sparrow --- including all the wisecracks and sarcasm. Gage finds himself torn in allegiance between following Napoleon's French forces and supporting the British military that is opposing Bonaparte.
The bottom line for Gage is that he is involved in this saga due to his own pursuit of adventure and treasure --- and switches allegiances so many times that you begin to lose count. In addition to reclaiming his lost love, Astiza (who was taken from him at the end of NAPOLEON'S PYRAMIDS), Gage is on the trail of the ancient Book of Thoth - which may hold the key to immortality. He is told of an ancient tale that involved the infamous Knights Templar during the Crusades and how their pursuit of the Holy Grail may have ended with their discovery of The Book of Thoth. The story indicates that the Holy Grail has been described as many different objects over time --- even an ancient book. Following clues that he finds during his adventures through the Holy Land, Gage learns that he is not alone in its pursuit. Apparently, Napoleon has been made aware of the Book and the promise of immortality and endless power it may bring to whoever possesses it.
Gage and his small band of allies set off in pursuit of The Book of Thoth --- which is actually a scroll said to have been stolen from the Great Pyramid by Moses and carried by the Jews to their new kingdom of Israel 3,000 years earlier. The American expatriate discovers that finding the scroll isn't the difficult part --- it's the interpretation of text written in a long-dead language that provides the biggest hurdle. Gage is told of a Rosetta Key that can be used as the template for interpreting this ancient scroll. What's more interesting in this tale is the fact that the Rosetta Key is in the possession of Gage's small group of allies --- in an unexpected form.
Gage is a morally ambiguous protagonist who is a lot of fun to follow. His ever-changing shifts in allegiance sometimes make it difficult to tell who is a friend or foe --- but are never boring. Once events unfold in THE ROSETTA KEY and the quest is determined, it is a non-stop race to the finish as Gage attempts to get "the key," rescue Astiza and help the British allied forces stop Bonaparte's siege of Acre. Complicating matters is that Gage falls for Miriam, the sister of one of his colleagues, early in the novel. This event provides Gage with additional turmoil as to which love interest he will end up with when the dust settles --- if either!
THE ROSETTA KEY is a well-researched historical adventure that will appeal to readers of both historical nonfiction and some of today's top historical fiction writers, such as Dan Brown, Steve Berry and James Rollins. This is the perfect summer novel as it provides non-stop escapist thrills while describing a pivotal event in world history. Not all of the questions and issues are resolved by the end of the book, which indicates that Dietrich hopefully will return to the adventurous Ethan Gage so we can follow him through another tale and find out what happens next.
--- Reviewed by Ray Palen
The summary storyline: this tale picks up immediately after the first novel in the series, and finds Gage caught up once again in the battles between the French, the British and the residents of the Holy Land who are resisting invasion. Having lost his love and not knowing whether she is dead or alive, he continues the search for the Book of Thoth, with the help of new allies. Gage once again miraculously survives the battles of Jerusalem and Acre, and continues searching out clues from the Templar Crusaders to find what Astiza's last words to him directed. Gage finally learns that Astiza is alive and being held by his arch-enemy Silano, and they have arrived in the Jerusalem following the same clues as Gage. He attempts to rescue her, find the "treasure", and carry on with his life. Of course, this entails frequent changes in alliance with Napoleon, the British navy, and the Ottoman and local rulers of the area as he seeks to stay alive. It is a deadly gauntlet, fraught with unusual obstacles and tricky clues for him to solve, while saving his own hide. It is a good story, with captivating characters, spiced with historical events and characters, with Gage as the witty and clever scoundrel who bumbles his way through (somewhat like Columbo) trying to do the right thing at the time, and finally succeeds but never really wins.
If you like mystery, history, humor, and puzzle solving with an accidental hero, this is the series of novels for you. The book is a charming, getaway read that doesn't bog down in philosophy or right and wrong.