Although I knew this book was the second in a series, I hadn’t read the first, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It was very quickly clear (at least to me) that “The Eye of Nefertiti” is aimed at slightly older children – perhaps pre- or early-teen (though, if this is the case, it should be said that some of the language might be a touch coarse).
Straight away this book is light-hearted and fun, tinged with a great harmless humour throughout. Although it is a sequel, it is touted also as a “stand-alone” edition, but I did find the very token recap in its first chapter a touch vague, and I felt that perhaps more should have been made of the backstory; though this may be because of my more mature years - a younger audience might consider the backstory of less importance, and perhaps it doesn’t matter too much; “The Eye of Nefertiti” is about a talking cat, living with an Egyptian High Priest and the reincarnation of his Pharaoh in a baby, in modern-day New York - if the story of how they all got to this point is a tale for another book, then I won’t hold this against it. Immediately beyond the small reference to the prequel, the characters and the reader are thrown straight into Wrappa-Hamen’s (the cat) next set of high jinks.
The story is a touch tenuous, and never really seems to develop – in fact, it is so briefly outlined that it gets a touch lost; this book is essentially then “The Adventures of Wrappa-Hamen”, and the story is more of a direction than a solid factor. I think this is a bit of a shame, to be honest, because when the book is over, and the story has revealed itself fully, it is actually very good, with a strong sense of mysticism and a touch of evil, not to mention real poignancy and melancholy; I do feel Maria has done her lovely story an injustice by allowing its relevance to fade into obscurity behind Nefertiti’s light-hearted and slapstick monologue. I would have liked to have seen a lot more made of Nefertiti’s “deal” with Seth, and a much greater emphasis, at times, on the threat in the story. I know this may not have been the book Maria was trying to produce, but even in kids’ stories fear and danger are essential elements to fantasy (think Harry Potter, or even most Pixar movies), and a menacing adversary would have improved it. I do feel the book served more of a purpose to satisfy Maria’s own fun and enjoyment, as well as her love of ancient Egypt and cats, as well as our own city of Bath; of course, this is great: writing should be about having fun. It’s always nice to see authors writing about things they like, and revelling in their childhood interests, particularly if their intention is to encourage today’s children to share in their enthusiasm.
Maria Luisa Lang is a good author, who paints the words onto the page with a big brush and happy colours (metaphorically, of course, not literally). She has a nice turn of phrase, her visuals are great, and her descriptions simple yet vivid – whether it be ancient Egypt, Bath or Central Park, she places the reader right there with Wrappa-Hamen; furthermore, in Maria’s book, it always feels sunny. The prose is a little basic, but of course that is probably well suited to what I assume is its target audience. There are one or two editing errors, which Maria would be well to remedy, but, other than this, her writing is great, and a lot of fun; “The Eye of Nefertiti” was, I’ll admit, a pleasure to read.
In : Book Reviews