Book Review: Masks of the Lost Kings by Tom Bane

14624308Title: Masks of the Lost Kings
Author: Tom Bane
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction, Adventure, Thriller
Publisher: Telemachus
Publication Date: March 3rd, 2012
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Review copy provided by the author in exchange for honest review.

Following the sudden disappearance of treasure hunter Ben Sanders in Mexico, beautiful archaeologist Suzy da Silva is snatched from the cloistered environs of Oxford University and thrust into a deadly maelstrom of intrigue and discovery. Joining forces with astrophysicist Tom Brooking she crosses four continents, to unlock the dark secrets of Tutankhamun’s tomb, the Holy Sepulchre and the mysterious Mayan Temple of Inscriptions to reveal a mysterious truth. Together they risk their lives, pursued by martial assassins and renegade special forces, fighting the forces of evil to discover hidden knowledge so precious that it has lain dormant for over a thousand years..

Masks of the Lost Kings is an eclectic mix of genres. It’s a suspense novel, a thriller, but also ventures down the historical fiction route (although it’s not about characters living a long time ago, half the book talks about civilizations long lost) and ultimately reminded me of The Mummy and Indiana Jones. The main character is an intellectual and academic, Suzy da Silva, which makes for a nice change. Suzy is an archeologist who decides to research the link between pharaoh Tutankhamun and Christianity for her thesis. Since I’m in the middle of writing a thesis myself, I could instantly connect with the main character. She actually reminded me a lot of myself, and her struggles were strikingly familiar. Unfortunately though, my thesis isn’t nearly as interesting enough that I need to go dig up ancient graves in the Egyptian desert or run away from secret organisations. Alas.

Suzy is a likeable protagonist, intellectual, clever and independent. Her research is funded by the Horus Corporation who send along a bodyguard named Getsu to protect her. While Suzy doesn’t see Egypt as a dangerous place at first, she’s soon convinced otherwise when she finds some guides murdered in the necropolis. In Egypt, Suzy runs into Tom, who’s there for research as well. At first, Tom seems arrogant, distant. But the more Suzy gets to know how, the more she begins to like him. As a reader, I have trouble grasping why. Tom isn’t a very intriguing character, in fact he never really moves beyond that ‘arrogant’ phase, and since he makes no character progress whatsoever, I don’t understand how Suzy could do a one-eighty and like him all of the sudden. Another pet peeve of mine is that Suzy, although having had no material arts training whatsoever, manages to best every assailant that comes her way. Mary Sue syndrome, perhaps? In any case, it wasn’t convincing and left me shaking my head occassionally.

The writing was great. Mr. Bane writes with an easy flow as if he’s been doing this for three decades. He never gets too descriptive, or causes the pace to slow down because of the writing.

However, what intrigued me most about this story, was neither the writing nor the characters, but the plot itself and more importantly, the rich history Mr. Bane waved into this novel. Not only does he tell us a lot about Ancient Egyptian Culture, he also tells us about the Mayans, Israel, and lots more. His characters are intelligent, well-read people specialised in these fields, and it’s obvious he did a great deal of research to make his characters sound plausible. I also liked the addition of images to sometimes show us what he meant, like with the mask of Tutankhamun. There were tons of astrophysological interpretations mixed into this story, and I enjoyed these as well. I had the feeling I was learning a great deal, while I was actually enjoying myself as well. The author has obviously done his research. I can’t help but wonder how many years of researching went into writing this book. It’s a feat all on its own.

Don’t just read this for the history though. The plot turns the book into a true page-turner, as Suzy is being chased from Egypt to Israel to across the Atlantic, and her research brings her closer and closer to unravel one of the greatest mysteries of human kind. The stakes are impossibly high, the people involved will do whatever it takes to keep their secret safe, and our heroine is in the middle of all that.

A book this strong, this intellectual, has set a high standard. I can only hope that in the next books in the series (if this will indeed be a series, like I’m hoping) Mr. Bane will meet the same standard, and who knows, maybe even succeed it. I’m certainly thoroughly impressed, and applaud the author’s research, his knowledge and his way to convey that knowledge to his readers without making them feel bored, or feel like they’re reading a non-fiction book.

The only reason why I gave this book four and a half, as opposed to five stars, was because I felt like the characters could’ve been better developed. The author spend so much time developing the plot and background that the characters, especially Tom, are kind of left in the cold.

If you like Indiana Jones, conspiracy theories, or just adventure novels in general, Masks of the Lost Kings will definitely be your cup of tea. If you’re a big fan of ancient mysteries, try this one out as well. Mr. Bane is one of my new favorite authors of this year, and maybe even of all time. I look forward to reading more of his work.


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