TombQuestAlex Sennefer is going to die. It is a matter of when, not if. His illness is undiagnosed; a mystery ailment with no cure. Modern medicine is powerless. His fate is sealed.

His mother has other ideas…

Doctor Maggie Bauer is ready to roll the dice and use the tools available to her as a curator at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. With Alex on the brink of death, she uses the Lost Spells of the Egyptian Book of the Dead to resuscitate her son. But in doing so, she wakes ancient Death Walkers, whose re-emergence threatens all of mankind, and leads to her disappearance.

Awakened and revitalised – for Alex wasn’t just revived, but rejuvenated completely by his mother’s actions, his illness obliterated – this twelve-year-old boy must team up with his best friend, Ren, and the enigmatic Doctor Todtman, to save New York from the restored mummy known as the Stung Man, and rescue his mother.

There’s a lot to like about book one in this new kids series. Alex’s mission is fuelled by a desire to protect his mother – “she’d taken care of him his whole life, and now it had cost her” – and his resurgence, from weakling to full-bodied and able makes for some inspiring moments; “For twelve years , he’d been defined by what he couldn’t do … spent so much time cautious and fearful, sitting and watching. Now, he’d be defined by what he could do.” He’s a strong lead, backed up by the diminutive and highly-intelligent Ren; and together they form a duo capable of taking on any threat. There’s some fun banter between the two throughout, emphasizing their bond: their friendship feels genuine despite contrasting personalities. I was a tad disappointed that Alex’s “miracle cure” completely abolished his sickness and rehabilitated him so pristinely; it would’ve been fun seeing a less-able hero combat impossible odds alongside his companion, and emphasize that we don’t need to be supreme specimens to overcome obstacles; but that’s nitpicking.

The action comes thick and fast, and is perhaps unsuitable for the easily-frightened. The Stung Man’s body is blighted by welts, and scorpions skitter throughout many dark passageways as Northrop ramps up the tension. There’s nothing gratuitous here, and most kids won’t bat an eyelid; but there’s an eerie resonance throughout these pages, an uncomfortable tension as our heroes explore the city’s hidden tombs. There’s a touch of the fantastical too, beyond the revival of ancient forces; Alex is equipped with a scarab that grants him mystical powers, and it’s a device that’s sure to be further developed in subsequent instalments.

Book of Death is a fun adventure novel for kids, and a bright beginning to the TombQuest series. Kids who devoured The 39 Clues and Spirit Animals series will want to dig in immediately.

Note: TombQuest Book 1 – Book of Death is released alongside an online game. This was not reviewed, and has no bearing on the novel’s merit.

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