The Rosetta Key
This sequel to 2005’s Napoleon’s Pyramids finds its engaging, amoral antihero, Ethan Gage, at the tail end of the 18th century, still in pursuit of both the mythical Book of Thoth, supposedly contained in the Ark of the Covenant, and of his exotic, Egyptian lover, Astiza. His forays into the Middle East take him from Egypt to Jerusalem with plenty of stops in between, and in and out of allegiances of convenience with the French, the English and the Ottomans and Arabs. Comparisons to Indiana Jones are easy, but Gage’s opportunism makes Jones look like the altruistic head of an international charity. Likewise, the author’s extreme fondness for similes irritates at first, but eventually this reader just went with the flow and simply noted how many occurred per page.
The book is fast moving, following the historical events of Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt for the most part faithfully, with Gage meeting and fighting first with and later against most of the main historical players. The descriptions of the myriads of cities and landscapes and cultures that Gage encounters are marvelous and filled with color. The author redeems his antihero’s opportunism with a witty, self-deprecating humor. There’s even a veiled 21st century comparison in the observation of Napoleon’s shock when the Arab populations did not welcome his invasion forces as bringers of the Enlightenment. All readers must do is check their grasp on reality and probability at the first page. Gage manages to escape near-certain death numerous times while managing to lose fortunes, lovers, and political loyalties with the greatest of ease. The Rosetta Key is action packed, reads easily, and is ideal for the big screen.