Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Rosetta Key by William Dietrich

In The Rosetta Key an American adventurer, Ethan Gage, is on a quest to find the Book of Thoth, which is rumoured to contain great secrets and magic. The year is 1799 and Gage's adventures takes him across the Holy Land, Egypt and France. He's joined by a motley crew of characters some of whom are new friends; other he's run across before. As Gage continues on his journey he remembers the teachings of his mentor Benjamin Franklin, who's advice proves to be very helpful in getting out of the dangerous situations in which he finds himself.

At one time I thought historical novels had to be dull, boring and humourless. Dietrich has proved that this isn't true. This book was fun and highly entertaining to read. The protagonist is witty, cocky and has more lives than a cat. He can get out of harm's way with his wits and sometimes a little help from his friends. A little like Indiana Jones, but in my opinion, more entertaining. Besides Gage and his misfit friends, some real-life persons, like Napoleon and Josephine as well as other from the time period, are included in the story.

There are many interesting explanations scattered throughout the book; how the gypsies got their name, the Rosetta Stone, the Ark of the Covenant, Moses, Jerusalem and the Knights Templar. I don't know if any of it is true, but it's all fascinating stuff.

My one problem is the many reminders that this book was part of a series. Dietrich frequently references Gage's previous adventure at the pyramids. While I'm sure readers of that book were thrilled, I think it's a little unfair to those who didn't read it. Having said that, I found this book interesting enough that I'm likely to find and read the first one in the series, Napoleon's Pyramids as well as any subsequent books in the series.


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