The Shadow Prince
By The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
In an alternate ancient Egypt, just-turned-twelve Ash has a choice: remain the poor, bullied outsider in his desert village, or travel to the capital in pursuit of a great destiny as shadow to the Pharaoh’s son. To earn his place, he must compete in a series of challenges set up by the gods themselves: defeating demons, battling metallic vultures, and dueling with magicians. Along the way, Ash makes his first real friends and uncovers an unexpected gift for magic. Which is just as well, because Lord Set is determined to prove his power by secretly killing the candidates and undermining the throne, unless Ash and company can stop him. Durham offers up an action-packed, magic-filled adventure made all the more fun by its evocative world building—full of sun-powered vehicles, giant insects, and animal-headed gods—and many fast-paced fight scenes tempered by a notable lack of gore (defeated monsters simply vanish in a puff of putrid smoke). The narrative employs a lot of well-worn fantasy tropes, but they’re in service to a compelling story that pits fraternal jealousy and desire for power against true friendship and generosity of spirit. Ash’s narrative voice is distinctly contemporary, full of endearing snark and self-deprecating wit, and readers will appreciate both his happy ending and the unresolved mysteries that leave the door open for sequels. A solid introduction to Egyptian mythology, including a brief glossary of the gods, this may lead readers to explore more. Put this in the hands of Rick Riordan Presents fans to further broaden their myth-based reading.