Napoleon’s Pyramids

Published January 22, 2012 by myliteraryleanings

Review of Napoleon’s Pyramids by William Dietrich

Overview from www.bn.com:

What mystical secrets lie beneath the Great Pyramids?

The world changes for Ethan Gage—one-time assistant to the renowned Ben Franklin—on a night in post-revolutionary Paris, when he wins a mysterious medallion in a card game. Framed soon after for the murder of a prostitute and facing the grim prospect of either prison or death, the young expatriate American barely escapes France with his life—choosing instead to accompany the new emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, on his glorious mission to conquer Egypt. With Lord Nelson’s fleet following close behind, Gage sets out on the adventure of a lifetime. And in a land of ancient wonder and mystery, with the help of a beautiful Macedonian slave, he will come to realize that the unusual prize he won at the gaming table may be the key to solving one of history’s greatest and most perilous riddles: who built the Great Pyramids . . . and why?

My Review:

Napoleon’s Pyramids takes place in a time period that I don’t think a lot of historical fiction writers cover. Furthermore, I can’t remember ever reading one that featured Bonaparte as a major character. This is the first in a series of novels featuring the same protagonist, an American named Ethan Gage.

The book opens with back story, setting the stage for the reader of life in post-revolutionary France. I found I did need to know some of this stuff. I thought that the back story was a little excessive and delayed the story a bit too much. Of course, sometime in the past, I did read a biography of Bonaparte’s life so perhaps some of the information that was retained in my mind might not have been known to the average reader.

Anyway, back to our protagonist. If memory serves, we first see Ethan Gage in Paris playing a card game and winning lots of money. Having run out of money, one of his opponents hopes to win his money back from Gage and offers a curious medallion for the right to play. To make a long story short, Gage wins the medallion but another player, a mysterious Count Silano, a former aristocrat who is half-French and half-Italian, also has a strong interest in the medallion and tries to buy it from Gage. Gage will have none of it and this is when his troubles begin.

After winning the medallion, he is eager to spend some of his money by visiting a prostitute but must hire a lantern bearer to guide him around in the Paris darkness. After spending a satisfactory night with the lady, he returns to his apartment just as some unknown men are going through his things. After having a fight with both the men (physical) and his landlady (verbal), he discovers to his relief that his medallion is safe but his money is gone. Going back to the prostitute’s place, he discovers that she is dead but not before she wrote the letter “G” in blood which would seem to implicate him.

Before we know it, the police are trying to arrest him from the murder but he manages to escape and secure a position on Napoleon’s trip to conquer and study Egypt, thanks to a fellow Freemason and friend. And thus the story continues with multiple attempts on our protagonist’s life, both in France and in Egypt while he tries to discover if there is any truth to the claim’s of the medallion’s previous owner that it belonged to Cleopatra and that it unlocks some secret power.

Napoleon of course, is eager to posses any knowledge or advantage that Mr. Gage’s medallion might give him and it is on this condition that he takes Gage with him to Egypt. Escaping murder charges, as well as finding the medallion’s power are his reasons for accepting and thus, temporarily keep Napoleon and Gage dependant on one another. Along the way, he meets a strange cast of characters, but never knows who to trust.

This is an interesting story and what I have told you here only begins to scratch the surface. What was most amazing to me is that though Gage struck me a the typical womanizing charmer who seems able to convince anyone of anything, he apparently can and does change, a surprise to himself as well, but he still retains his ability to talk his way out of most bad situations.

I liked how the author leads us through many of the battles with Gage’s eyes and ears. We see, eventually, how things that seem to be coincidence are not. Also, we see Napoleon through Gage’s filter, and hints of the ambitious man that he will become. In many ways, Gage and Napoleon are a lot alike I think.

The other great thing about this story was the mention of other real historical people and the events depicted. In the last pages, the author even takes the time to tell us what he fabricated and what was true. I found it fascinating that there might have still been worshipers of the ancient Egyptian religion living in Egypt at that time.

To conclude, I think that you will like this story, if you are either interested in any of the subjects it covers (I tried to mention as many of them as I could here) or if you like a good, thriller or action-adventure story. In some ways it is similar to Indiana Jones, though unlike Jones, Gage really has no idea what he is doing. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Contains: sexual situations, war violence, gore, some language and some occult rites.

For your enjoyment, I have added a video of the author describing how he does his research for this series.

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