The Death Stalker

Written by Gill Harvey
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley Minna McNulty

Ancient Egypt. 1200 B.C. Eleven-year-old Isis and her lame thirteen-year-old brother, Hopi, are orphans. Isis is a talented dancer and works with a travelling dance and music troupe. Hopi, who has a strange affinity with dangerous creatures, such as scorpions, is being trained in the art of healing by a priest of the scorpion goddess, Sequet.

The Egyptian army is returning, victorious, after a battle with Libyan marauders. Hopi is summoned to help a badly-injured young soldier, Djeri. Hopi soon realizes that there is a secret troubling Djeri and it’s hindering his recovery. It is something about scorpions. Hopi knows about scorpions and he begins to have some suspicions. Meanwhile, Isis thinks that the temporary army encampment might want entertaining – and the troupe needs the money. But some in the troupe are unhappy about performing for the army. Why?

Both Isis and Hopi come to understand that life in the army isn’t all glamour and triumphant victory marches and that war is far crueller than they could ever have imagined. Then they learn that Commander Meref is planning something terrible. Can he be stopped? And what does Djeri know about what is planned?

This is a thrilling story with plenty of action. I enjoyed learning something about soldiers’ lives and how the Egyptian war machine operated. We see that Hopi’s concern is as much for Djeri’s mental state of health as for his physical recovery and come to appreciate the Egyptians’ sophisticated knowledge of healing. Gill Harvey also shows how the Egyptian religious beliefs permeate their culture: Commander Meref meets his just deserts. I enjoyed this book – and I learnt something, too. There is a helpful cast list, map, fact file and glossary at the end of the book. — Elizabeth Hawksley

This is another masterpiece from Gill Harvey. We join Hopi and Isis again in a thrilling tale of adventure. The scene is set very well, especially at the Amun army camp – I felt as if I was there. I liked the way that both Hopi and Isis told their story – you were first in Hopi’s shoes and then jumped to Isis’s. The only thing I think could be improved is the character building because unless you’ve read the first book in the series (Spitting Cobra) you wouldn’t have any images of Isis or Hopi apart from the fact that Hopi’s leg was damaged by a crocodile. It was a bit like a detective story because the children made discoveries along the way. I would recommend it to 8-10 year olds – it’s a very interesting story that teaches you what it’s like to be an Egyptian girl and boy. — Minna McNulty, age 10