I confess at the outset of this review that I am a Tobsha Learner fan. I thoroughly enjoyed The Witch of Cologne and Soul, two very different and intriguing novels. Needless to say, I was filled with anticipation to read this next work from Learner.
As far as I was concerned, the book had many things in its favour – a fabulous cover, set in Egypt, filled with references to Ancient Egypt, and of course, the author’s own reputation. It also didn’t seem as weighty as the last few books which I have read which was exactly what I felt I needed.
So, I read Sphinx.
And, it met some of my requirements. It transported me through its relatively thrilling story and the mystical accounts of Ancient Egyptian rituals. I found the characters intriguing and I enjoyed their individual and collective journeys. The setting was by far one of the most outstanding elements of this book. The starkness and beauty of the Egyptian landscape and all the hidden treasures beneath it proved to be a highlight in this tale.
However, I found that Learner’s plot was lacking. I’m not sure what exactly it was lacking, but there was definitely something missing, perhaps something unbelievable, about the whole thing. While I appreciated the way that she tried to link contemporary events with the past and how she was intent upon igniting in readers a willingness to question the concrete, at times the book was too far fetched to actually realise this goal. I found myself skimming over parts on more than one occasion, reading the parts where the action was intense and leaving the rest.
And, yes, there was action. Some of the scenes were brilliantly executed and the backdrop of Cairo only served to heighten the intensity. At times I was perched on the edge of my proverbial seat, desperate to know what was around the corner in this narrative.
However, by the book’s end, having made the final journey through the afterlife, I was disappointed with the conclusion and found the way that Learner tied the story together left me unsatisfied or unbelieving, or both.
Having said this, if you enjoy a thriller that is well written, I would recommend this as it certainly fits the bill. If you are expecting greatness, give it a miss as you, like me, will be sadly bereft by this book.
An interview with Learner.