Gods and Warriors: The Crocodile Tomb

Written by Michelle Paver
Review by Sandra Unerman

This book, the fourth in a series, is set in the Bronze Age. Two youngsters from different Greek societies, Hylas and Pirra, are stranded on the coast of North Africa. They must travel into Egypt and along the Nile, to search for a talismanic dagger. They are helped by an assortment of the people they meet and by their animals, a half-grown lioness and a falcon. But the dagger is also pursued by ruthless enemies, who need to recover it to bring success to their tribe.

This is a fast-paced action adventure. I did not find it difficult to follow the story as a standalone but might have been more engaged with the main characters if I had read the previous books in the series. But the strength of the book for me lies in the evocation of an ancient world. We see what it might have been like to work as an embalmer for the dead or to discover the brilliant paintings inside an Egyptian tomb. The depiction of the Nile delta and the desert are particularly effective, as Hylas and Pirra encounter baboons, papyrus reeds, crocodiles and hippos for the first time. Brief glimpses into the minds of the lioness and the falcon help conjure up the sensations of the natural world as well as the life of people encountered.

Hylas and Pirra have an unquestioning belief in the gods of their own places and also the gods of the peoples they encounter. Since we see through their eyes, their encounters with the crocodile god and the rest are played straight, without rational explanation. This strengthens the reader’s immersion in their world and maybe helps us understand what it might have been like to live in those times. For readers of 10 and above.