By Author / Illustrator
Faber & Faber
Paperback / softback
Enter a world of Egyptian pharaohs and ancient curses from the Queen of Historical Fiction.London, 1922. A discovery from ancient Egypt . . .A cursed package . . .The untold story of a young pharaoh . . .When Lilian Kaye finds a parcel on her grandad's doorstep, she is shocked to see who sent it: a famous Egyptologist, found dead that very morning, according to every newspaper in England!The mysterious package holds the key to a story . . . about a king whose tomb archaeologists are desperately hunting for.Lil and her friends must embark on an incredible journey - to return the package to its resting place, to protect those they love, and to break the deadly pharaoh's curse . . .'This crisp, beautifully paced story will hold every young reader in thrall.' Telegraph'Hooked yet? You'd have to be dead and wrapped in bandages not to be.' The Times
I was lucky enough to review Emma Carroll's first book, Frost Hollow Hall, in 2013, which was a very good debut and was delighted to find that this, her seventh book, does not disappoint. The story of the boy King Tutankhamun, whose tomb was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922, has always fascinated and Secrets of a Sun King is cleverly woven around that event.
Lil finds a parcel on her Grandad's doorstep after he has been taken to hospital. He has mentioned to her that he and a colleague made a mistake some years ago and when she opens the parcel she thinks she has found the subject of this error of judgement. Inside is a jar which she cannot initially open. Her new friends, Oz and Tulip, have a journalist mother who is desperate to travel to Egypt to cover the story of the discovery of the tomb of the boy King, and together the children find a way to travel to Egypt with her, to return the jar and its contents to its rightful place. When the jar is finally opened, inside is the story of the boy King and how he came to die, and this story runs in parallel with Lily's journey.
Cleverly the author sticks to the facts that are known about Tutankhamun, and tells the reader at the end of the story which parts are fiction. The life of two very different families in 1922 is made very clear, with Lil a scholarship girl, and Tulip the girl who will not go to school, pairing together to deliver the jar to its rightful home and becoming fast friends in the process. Lil cares deeply for her granddad, and Tulip and Oz are mourning for the brother they believe has died in the Great War.
There are some details of the embalming process which might need skipping for the squeamish (!), but the details of the travel, the excitement and the belief that Lil was doing the right thing all makes for a very good read, and should send many children to the nearest museum to see a real mummy! I know that a map is easily accessible through technology these days, but a story that involves travel always benefits from one in the text.
304 pages / Reviewed by Janet Fisher, school librarian.
Suggested Reading Age 9+