As we’ve gone through the Amelia Peabody series volume by volume, we’ve occasionally seen gaps from one book to the next, where the “editor” says that certain volumes of Amelia’s journals have gone missing. In “Guardian of the Horizon,” we are informed that one of those missing journals has been recovered, and we are given the story contained in that journal in this book. I’m not sure why Elizabeth Peters chose to do this – perhaps she came up with the idea for the plot afterward and decided to come back and interject it, who knows – but this volume is said to take place right after the book entitled “The Ape Who Guards the Balance.” I think that if I were to go back and reread the series, I would simply read this one right after “Ape,” to keep everything straight in my mind.
The Emersons are at a loss of where to dig this season. Emerson has had a falling out with the man in charge of granting firmans, and it’s unsure if the group will have access to any site at all. When a messenger from a far off land comes to deliver a message, his timing couldn’t be better – he wants their help, and they have all the free time in the world. The odd thing about his arrival is that he comes from the Lost Oasis, the strange and remote location from which the Emersons rescued Nefret ten years previously, in the book “The Last Camel Died at Noon.” Merasen, the messenger, brings them a tale of sickness and death, and tells them that Tarek, the king they helped ascend to the throne during their previous time there, has asked that they return.
Nefret is eager to go see their friends and to use her medical training in any way she can to help save those who used to be her people. Emerson, Amelia, and Ramses are also anxious to finish up some things that were left undone. Provisioning themselves much more thoroughly than the first time they set out, they make their way across the desert, only to find that Tarek has been forced off the throne, there was no sickness, and that they have been conned into coming for one reason – Nefret. The new king wants her to resume her role as the High Priestess of Isis, and he’s not above drugging her to get compliance.
Meanwhile, Ramses has fallen for a pretty little slave girl they rescued, and for the first time, we see him fall in love with someone other than Nefret. His relationship with this girl is shown, which surprised me as we haven’t seen much of that in this series. While it’s not graphic, it’s obvious what is going on.
I don’t think this was my favorite in the series, but it didn’t disappoint me. I have yet to read an Amelia Peabody that didn’t hold my attention from beginning to end.
(This book was published in 2004 by HarperCollins.)