The Hour of the Cobra
Twins Xavier and Xanthe Alexander travel back in time to the Egypt of Cleopatra, via the magical “alleviators” discovered in a mysterious Maine resort in The Golden Hour. Despite being cautioned by the resort’s Board of Directors not to interfere with history, Xanthe can’t resist using the alleviator to engineer a meeting with Cleopatra. She discovers her mistake when they return to Maine and find that their interference has created an alternate universe in which the alternate Xanthe has died at age 10. Revisiting Egypt to repair their error leads them to fight in a gladiator contest and raid the snake-guarded chambers of the pyramids at Giza.
Williams was disappointed as a child that the only minority characters in the books she read were in stories about racism. She wanted to create a series of fun adventure books with heroes of different races, and succeeds in this admirably. Author’s notes list her sources and explain which historical parts were true and which not. I thought some of the plot points were improbable, even for a fantasy, and the characters not as well-developed as in the first book. Still, her series helps fill a serious need in children’s fiction. Ages 9-13.