Book Review: Guardian of the Horizon by Elizabeth Peters

Posted January 24, 2022 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Guardian of the Horizon by Elizabeth Peters

I received this book for free from my own shelves in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Guardian of the Horizon by Elizabeth Peters
Genres: Mystery, Amateur Sleuth, Historical
Published by William Morrow on October 13, 2009
Pages: 448
Format: eBook
Source: my own shelves

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Also by this author: The Painted Queen, Crocodile on the Sandbank, The Curse of the Pharaohs, The Mummy Case, Lion in the Valley, The Deeds of the Disturber, The Last Camel Died at Noon, The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog, The Hippopotamus Pool, Seeing a Large Cat, The Ape Who Guards the Balance, A River in the Sky, He Shall Thunder in the Sky, The Falcon at the Portal

An in-between tale, 10.5 chronologically (16 in publication) in the Amelia Peabody amateur sleuth in an historical mystery series and revolving around Amelia and her family and friends in Egypt. This particular tale begins in the spring of 1907.

My Take

Oh lord, this was good! Do read The Last Camel Died at Noon, 6, if you want the background to this particular sequel. And do read the Editor’s Note at the beginning of every book. It’s not a typical editor’s note but a part of the story.

It’s death and love revealed (or not). Peters uses both first person protagonist point-of-view from Peabody’s perspective and third person protagonist points-of-view from Ramses’ and Nefret’s perspectives.

Emerson is passionate about the scholarship and proper research. Too much so, as when his ire rises — all too often — he ticks people off. In turn the Service restricts him to boring digs. Nor does it help that he refuses to apply for a firman in advance.

Peabody does describe Ramses well, lol, as a trying child, irritating enough that others wanted to mutilate or murder him, who has grown into a nice-mannered adult. His character arc doesn’t make a lot of progress and only continues to harp on not telling Nefret he loves her. It also provides an opening to further speculation about Nefret’s life in the Lost Oasis, as well as opening up David’s assessment of cross-cultural exposure. This all crops up from events in The Last Camel Died at Noon. It also sets up the lead-in for Prince Merasen and also allows Peters to tidy things up for Nefret.

I can’t like Merasen. He’s such an immature man and quite the spendthrift with no conscience. And he goes after anyone with that knife of his. He certainly isn’t a Tarek!

Ya gotta love Peabody’s preparedness and her disinterest in how others perceive her costumes. That parasol of hers certainly has a reputation, lol.

Peabody and Emerson’s marital actions are certainly interesting. They do love to manipulate each other into tremendous arguments. As for those marital relations, ooh là là, so Victorian in the descriptions, lol.

Aha, it seems Selim is fascinated by machinery.

The Emersons do NOT approve of tourists, for all the reasons most people despise them. Although it appears that Nefret has met a lady physician who is interested in Nefret’s plans to open a hospital in Cairo.

Ooh, Nefret is dang quick to lash out at Ramses, and he’s getting better at letting her know he’s not impressed. Abdullah has his own way of getting at Peabody, and he only drops vague warnings and hints, lol.

I do enjoy the bits of history Peters throws in. Talking about how the Aswan Dam is changing Egypt is interesting. That tidbit about readying camels for a long expedition was interesting as well.

Emerson is not enamored of religion, in fact “religious persons always use God as an excuse for unprincipled acts”, as you’ll see in Guardian of the Horizon.

Additional concerns revolve around the fact that the Lost Oasis must remain a secret from the world and the world is much too fascinated with the Emersons.

I’m tellin’ ya, it’s action aplenty in Guardian. They dabble in archeological pursuits on their way to the Oasis and as a way to throw off suspicion while there as they plot their coup d’etat.

I do adore this series. The characters are beguiling, the history is fascinating especially as Peters weaves real-life events into her stories, and the adventures are continuous with a warm, equal approach to all. I do love how the Emersons give the put down to their fellow, bigoted Europeans as they embrace their workers and the native peoples (well, ya can’t really just say Egyptian as then we’d be leaving out the Arabs, the Bedouin, the Nubian, the …)

The Story

The Emersons get a message that Tarek is in trouble with sickness weakening his people. It’s been months since the sicknesses had spread, but an attempt must be made.

It’s a troublesome and exciting journey with raiders, enemies, and some rather odd travelers met along the way.

Then the Great Ones encounter the current ruler of the Lost Oasis.

The Characters

Amelia Peabody Emerson, a.k.a. Sitt Hakim (Lady Doctor), loves to entangle herself in everyone’s lives. She has quite the fancy for cleanliness, even in donkeys, camels, and horses. Her husband is Professor Radcliffe Emerson, a.k.a. the Father of Curses (Abu Shitaim), a brilliant scholar and excavator. The twenty-year-old Walter “Ramses” Emerson, a.k.a. Brother of Demons, is their son and a skilled linguist and excavator. The twenty-three-year-old Dr Nefret Forth, a.k.a. Nur Misur (Light of Egypt), is a skilled excavator with medical training and a thorough acquaintance with mummies — who has never fallen in love. Horus is Nefret’s mean cat, who loves kittens. The twenty-two-year-old David Todros, a skilled copyist and artist, is Ramses’ best friend and blood brother, as well as Abdullah’s grandson. The Emersons’ home in England is Amarna House in Kent. Rose is their housekeeper; Gargery is their nosy butler; and, John is one of the footmen. In the backyard is a small Cushite-styled pyramid over Tabirka‘s body.

Emerson’s younger brother is Walter Emerson, renowned for his scholarly skill in ancient Egyptian languages. He’s married to Evelyn (Crocodile on the Sandbank, 1). Lia is one of their children and engaged to David. Raddie and the twins, Willie and Johnny, are more children. These Emersons primarily live at Chalfont Castle in Yorkshire.

M Maspero is the chicken-hearted head of the Service des Antiquités. James Quibell works at the museum; Annie is his wife. Reisner is an American archeologist whom Emerson doesn’t despise. Dr Sophia is a Syrian interested in Nefret’s hospital plans. Ramses keeps up a membership at the Gezira Sporting Club and the Turf Club for the gossip. Prince Feisal, the unofficial tennis champion and a good shot, is the son of Sheikh Bashoor of an important Bedouin tribe.

Thebes / Luxor
Abdullah ibn Hassan al Wahhab had been a friend of the Emersons for decades and their reis, foreman, of the excavation team, but events in The Ape Who Guards the Balance, 10, have killed that off. Selim ibn Hassan al Wahhab is Abdullah’s youngest son, and he will take over as reis. Daoud had been Abdullah’s second-in-command and a nephew. Ali, Ibrahim, and Hassan, Selim’s cousin, will be the rest of the men who accompany the Emersons to the Sudan.

The Amelia is the dahabeeyah Emerson had restored for Peabody. Fatima, David’s aunt, is the cook/housekeeper aboard her. Mahmud is the steward.

Theodore Davis holds the concession for the Valley of Kings and has no care for scholarship. Mohassib is an antiquities dealer. Abdul works at the Winter Palace, a hotel in Luxor.

Sethos is the Master Criminal, a master of disguise and theft, who has had a lucrative deal going on.

The Sudan
Sir Reginald Wingate is the governor general of the Sudan and based in Khartoum. Seems Sir Reg has no clue about archeology. Farah is the reis and old friend of Emerson’s who has a boat. Moncrieff is a gossip and friend of Emerson’s too.

The Lost Oasis has . . .
. . . had no contact with the world since refugees from the capital of Meroe found their way there in the fourth century A.D. Prince Tarek became the king of the Holy Mountain in The Last Camel Died at Noon. His wife, Mentarit, died in childbirth. Prince Merasen is a braggart, a jerk, and one of Tarek’s brothers. The now-dead Nastasen was another brother. The High Priest Murtek had died, his place taken by Amase, the new High Priest of Isis and First Prophet of Osiris. Bakamani is the High Priest of Aminreh.

Count Amenislo, another of Tarek’s brothers, is the overseer of the royal storehouses and Second Prophet of Aminreh, a.k.a. Amon Re. The previous priest in The Last Camel Died at Noon died after a year of imprisonment. The Horus Mankhabale, Son of Re Zekare, Lord of the Two Lands, etc., is Merasen’s father. Captain Har encountered the Emerson party first. And Peabody finds his behavior quite odd. Harsetef was one of the soldiers saved by Emerson in The Last Camel Died at Noon; he has three sons now. The Heneshem, is also the God’s Wife of Amon, the highest of the high priestesses. In The Last Camel Died at Noon, the Heneshem had been Nefret’s mother. Now their High Priestess of Isis is back. Her maidens are the physicians of the Holy Mountain. Khat is a boy of the rekkit.

Zerwali is the leader of the Bedouins who come along to handle the camels. Masud, a Nubian, hired most of the camels to the Emersons.

Hamish MacFerguson is an archeologist at the pyramid field of Nuri, part of Reisner’s Nubian Survey.

Sheikh Nur ed Din, the local ma’mur, lives in Wadi Halfa. We meet Yusuf Sawar in Halfa. Mahmud el Araba is a long-dead friend of Emerson’s. Captain Barkdoll is the demanding mudir.

Hunter Newbold is a scummy “great white hunter”. Daria of Khartoum is the woman Newbold has acquired. Frau Bergenstein is part of an adventurous women’s group who call themselves the wild birds as they flew to the farther reaches of the world. The Reverend and Miss Campbell are brother and sister; he’s the impassioned one while she’s forced to go along.

Sanam Abu Dom had been headquarters for the British and Egyptian soldiers in The Last Camel Died at Noon. Captain Moroney had met Peabody when he was an assistant surgeon back in ’98.

Mahmud Dinar is the sultan of Darfur who profits from the slave trade. Mustapha has provided dwelling space before, and Peabody was not impressed. Kemal leads a band of raiders paid to attack.

The Mahdi‘s occupation of a region that had once held the Napatan and Meroitic kingdoms has been driving Emerson mad and we’re first exposed to this in The Last Camel Died at Noon. Willoughby Forth had been Nefret’s father. Reginald Forthright had been Willoughby’s nephew. Kemit had been a taciturn part of that team. Nefret had been the thirteen-year-old High Priestess of Isis. The rekkit had been the original inhabitants of the Holy Mountain.

The Carringtons are the Emersons’ neighbors in Kent with a niece. Erman is a German with whom Ramses wishes to study. Constable is a publishing company which makes an offer to David. Kevin O’Connell is a star reporter for the Daily Yell and a sometimes friend of the Emersons. Mr Breasted of Chicago had been Ramses’ mentor at one point. The Book of Hidden Pearls is a medieval collection of fairy tales. Cook’s runs steamers of tourists up and down the Nile. Wilkinson and Gerhard Rolfe are interested in the Holy Mountain. Wallis Budge acquires antiquities, usually illegally, for the British Museum. Mr Fletcher is Nefret’s solicitor.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a deep periwinkle blue sky with the setting sun forming a thin line on the distant black horizon. At the bottom is an orangey landscape of desert and hills with camels wandering the desert. In the forefront is a beetle-like pale green scarab with a mosaic of wings, legs, and raised arms behind it. The right edge of the cover is torn revealing a black background. At the very top is an info blurb in yellow. The author’s name is immediately below this in white with another info blurb in yellow immediately below it and above the scarab figure. The title begins just below the desert horizon and is in white.

The title is about the sun, the Guardian of the Horizon, of the people of the Lost Oasis.

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