The thing when you are a bookworm, is that you have an overwhelming need to read no matter what else needs doing in your life. Carpets to hoover, why bother they just get dirty again! Clothes to iron, no point they’ll just get creased again! It’s amazing how many excuses I will make and things I will avoid doing just to carve out a little bit of reading time. So it’s only logical that after spending 3 solid weeks reading 20 books for this year’s Blue Peter Book Awards longlisting panel that I reward myself by picking up and devouring my most anticipated read of the year. A new book by Emma Carroll has to be the ultimate reward. I can’t tell you how much I’ve been wanting to get my hands on a copy of this book since hearing whispers about an Egyptian tale featuring a ‘lost boy’ first emerged on Twitter. Then the pain of having a copy and knowing you can’t read it straight away because of a looming deadline is almost too much to bear. But bear it I did, and I can confirm it was definitely worth the wait, ‘The Secrets of the Sun King,’ is a book that dreams are made of, sumptuously told and brilliantly written.
Emma Carroll’s genius lies in her ability to transport the reader back in history and gives them such a sense of time and place that you find yourself right there, amongst the story watching it unfold before your very eyes. London, 1922. Lil’s grandfather is seriously ill and sent on an errand she finds a mysterious parcel on his doorstep. Even more mysterious is the sender of the parcel, a famous Egyptologist who has died in the most extraordinary circumstances that very morning. Unknown to Lil the strange parcel contains a secret hidden inside which holds the key to a story about a famous Egyptian king whose tomb everyone is desperate to find. With the help of her friends, Lil has to undertake a remarkable journey to return the package to it’s rightful resting place, in the hope it will save her grandfather and break the deadly pharaoh’s curse.
Emma has created a truly remarkable story in ‘The Secrets of the Sun King.’ Skilfully weaving this tale with so much excitement and mystery, then liberally sprinkling with darkness and danger to create a thrilling, enthralling adventure. The characterisation is just flawless, Emma has assembled a delightful cast of characters. I completely fell in love with Lil, a scholarship girl who doesn’t quite fit in at her school but has the most fierce determination to do what is right even if it lands her in trouble. Her willingness to do whatever it takes to protect her family, even at the risk to her own well being is really endearing. She is drawn to the daring Tulip who although seemingly has everything she could wish for, is just like her an outsider who is also fiercely lovely to her family especially her brother Oz. Every person within this story has a secret, a longing, that they feel the need to keep locked away.
Emma cleverly creates stories that contain so many layers of thought within them, they have a real depth that I always enjoy. Despite it being four years since World War One ended we still feel the damage still lingering in the grief of Tulip’s family over the loss of their brother and the emotional damage to Lil’s father mental health. We can feel the inequalities that still exist for the working class through Lil’s father’s determination for her to have an education so she can have a better life. It also explores the uneasiness surrounding the treatment of ancient Egyptian artefacts and the entitlement to ownership that was felt by this wealthy explorers and archaeologists. All of these thoughts and feelings running parallel to the story make it so much more than an intoxicating adventure. These elements combined with her ability to write gripping, page-turning tales confirm Emma as an incredibly special and genuinely talented writer, whose books I absolutely adore.
‘The Secret of the Sun King,’ Emma Carroll’s eight book and is available to by now online or from any good bookshop.