Secrets of the Tombs 1: The Phoenix Code

Written by Helen Moss
Review by Pia Fenton

I may be slightly biased, as I’ve been fascinated by Egyptian pharaohs and their treasures from an early age, but I absolutely loved this book! It’s a children’s version of the adult historical treasure thrillers à la Dan Brown/Steve Berry type (and I mean that in the best possible way – great plots, edge of the seat suspense), and it’s every bit as exciting and very well-written.

Ryan Flint is a 15-year-old boy who gets to accompany his journalist mother on an expedition to Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. He’s not expecting to get caught up in any ancient mysteries, he just likes to draw everything he sees. The dig’s director has a 14-year-old daughter, Cleo McNeil, and although Ryan finds her strange at first (she’s brainy and very serious, having traipsed around the globe with her parents instead of going to normal school), they become friends. When she starts to solve an ancient mystery, Ryan helps and they find that they make a great team, complementing each other.

The story that follows – of how they search for a legendary object called the Benben Stone by solving clues left by an Egyptian temple priest 3000 years ago – draws the reader in from page one and once I’d started, I didn’t want to put the book down. It sizzles along with never a dull moment, and the reader can’t help but like the two young protagonists and root for them as they try to outwit the (adult) villains.

I think this book would be suitable for children of ten plus (depending on their reading tastes) – everything is carefully explained without seeming like info dumps and you learn a lot about Egyptian history along the way. I’m very much hoping it’s the first in a series – hugely recommended!