Book: “Guardian of the Horizon” by Elizabeth Peters
Publishing Info: Avon, March 2005
Where Did I Get this Book: audiobook from the library!
Book Description: Amelia Peabody and her husband Emerson, along with their son Ramses and foster daughter Nefret, are summoned back to the Lost Oasis, a hidden stronghold in the western desert whose existence they discovered many years ago (in The Last Camel Died At Noon) and have kept secret from the entire world, including their fellow Egyptologists. According to Merasen, the brother of the ruling monarch, their old friend Prince Tarek is in grave danger and needs their help, however it’s not until they retrace their steps back to the Oasis, with its strange mixture of Meroitic and Egyptian cultures, that they learn the real reason for their journey.
Previously Reviewed: “The Crocodile on the Sandbank” and “The Curse of the Pharaohs” and “The Mummy Case” and “Lion in the Valley” and “Deeds of the Disturber” and “The Last Camel Died at Noon” and “The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog.” and “The Hippopotamus Pool” and “The Ape Who Guards the Balance”
Review: I’m again back with an Amelia Peabody mystery review! It’s so great to have a series like this in one’s back pocket whenever a solid read is needed. The fact that the audiobook version is so great is an even greater bonus! Though, while I’m still enjoying the series as a whole, this one did feel a bit weaker than some of the others.
For once the Emerson family is left without a plan for where to excavate this coming season. Of course, the problem is not long-lasting as adventure is always sure to arrive at their door, this time in the form of a young man named Merasen who claims to be from the ancient, lost city where they rescued Nefret so many years ago. Once again, they must make the perilous journey to that remote oasis, and all of Amelia’s plans cannot prepare them for what they will find. Now, caught up once again in these ancient machinations, it is up to Amelia and co. to resolve not only the many challenges that arise, but to get out alive while doing it!
Up to this point, I had been reading the books not only in chronological order, but publishing order as well. This is the first book that was written much later, but backtracks to tell a story that is wedged between other, existing books. It won’t be until I get later in the series that I will know how well it fit in with previously written material, but it’s hard to imagine how the events of this book won’t have a lasting impact on the series. The obvious explanation is that since they resolved not to talk about the Lost Oasis originally, that same silence explains the absence of references to this story.
But even with that being the case, this story hits a few crucial character beats that it feels would impact how these same characters behave going forward. By this point, Amelia and Emerson are pretty set, as far as characterization and grand arcs go. Their romance is solid, their foibles understood and managed, they tackle adventure with the easy partnership of two people who know one another inside out. And as, by this point, the reader also knows them inside out, they are like a familiar pair of shoes that fit just right. I still love them, but this book’s main emotional arc is that of Ramses, and, to a lesser extent, that of Nefret.
For the last several books, Ramses unspoken love for Nefret has only grown. By this book, the torment has gotten to the point that he has begun looking for excuses not to be around her. Of course, given the nature of the story, that can’t be allowed to happen and he ends up on this adventure with her and the rest of his family. Along the way, however, he meets another mysterious and beautiful young woman. And throughout the book, Ramses struggles to understand his feelings for both of these women. It’s a very well-done side story as Ramses’ conflicted feelings are so relatable. He has a long-lasting, unrequited and unspoken, love for Nefret, and that is not given up. But at the same time, there is now the appeal of a young woman who sees him and can return his interest. Not knowing how the rest of the series plays out, it does feel like this experience would have a lasting effect on Ramses’ approach to his feelings for Nefret, either to make them more manageable, knowing that he can develop attachment for another, or drive him to the point of coming clean to her. But, given the fact that this book was written later, I’m not sure how that would work.
Nefret, too, takes a fairly hard emotional blow in the return to the Lost City. She had been raised there as a high priestess, a role of great importance but also great isolation. Upon returning, it is impossible to avoid the crushing memories of her childhood, both its joys and pains. Her experiences are arguably the most harrowing of them all in this book. But that also brings us to one of the downsides of this book. I’ve always loved the character of Nefret, and with the events of this book, she spends most of it very changed from the young woman we’ve been following before. With Amelia and Emerson remaining so steady (lovely, yet also not incredibly interesting either), much of the interest lies in Ramses and Nefret. And when you take her off the table, too, essentially…it’s just a lot of book to hang on one character’s shoulders, even if that character is excellent in his own right.
The story also relied on a few tricks we’ve now see many times before. I enjoyed the return to the Lost City and wish the book had capitalized on the novelty of that fact more so, without resorting to pulling in characters and mysteries that we often find in the other stories that are set in more traditional settings. It felt like a lost opportunity a bit and I think a few of these familiar additions were definitely unnecessary.
I continue to enjoy this series, though some of the characters felt a bit more bland in this book than in others. I also feel that it didn’t take full advantage of its own conceit and relied too heavily on past tricks to resolve many of the conflicts. But, of course, there’s no question that I will be continuing on with the series!
Rating 7: Not my favorite book in the series as I feel like it could have done so much more than it did.
“Guardian of the Horizon” is on these Goodreads lists: “Historical Mysteries and Thrillers Featuring Women” and “Regency and Victorian Mysteries.”
Find “Guardian of the Horizon” at your library using WorldCat!