Author: Jennifer Bradbury
Published: 2011 by Simon & Schuster
Agnes Wilkins is standing in front of an Egyptian mummy, about to make the first cut into the wrappings, about to unlock ancient (and not-so-ancient) history.Maybe you think this girl is wearing a pith helmet with antique dust swirling around her.Maybe you think she is a young Egyptologist who has arrived in Cairo on camelback.Maybe she would like to think that too. Agnes Wilkins dreams of adventures that reach beyond the garden walls, but reality for a seventeen-year-old debutante in 1815 London does not allow for camels—or dust, even. No, Agnes can only see a mummy when she is wearing a new silk gown and standing on the verdant lawns of Lord Showalter’s estate, with chaperones fussing about and strolling sitar players straining to create an exotic “atmosphere” for the first party of the season. An unwrapping.This is the start of it all, Agnes’s debut season, the pretty girl parade that offers only ever-shrinking options: home, husband, and high society. It’s also the start of something else, because the mummy Agnes unwraps isn’t just a mummy. It’s a host for a secret that could unravel a new destiny—unleashing mystery, an international intrigue, and possibly a curse in the bargain.Get wrapped up in the adventure . . . but keep your wits about you, dear Agnes.
First Sentence:"'Put the book down, darling,’ my mother said from her chair beside the mirror."
Can I just gush? For hours? Because this book is worthy of years of gushing. Jennifer Bradbury states in the author’s note that she wrote this book to “[combine] my loves for the Regency period, Egyptian mythology and history, and stories featuring spies and secret agents.” Does this not sound like the most perfect combination of awesome things? And trust me, it worked. Soooo well!!
Because of my love of Jane Austen (whose works are referenced and spoken of many times throughout the story), I adore any story set in the same time period. In the very first scene of the book, Agnes is reading Mansfield Park. Right there, I knew I would love her. She goes on to quote Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.
The start is like many regency books with the girl getting ready for her debut and dislikes all the fuss over husband-hunting. Agnes was on the more romantic side of that rebellion though, in that she longed for a Jane Austen-like romance, not something set up and based on social standing. She was also not in complete rebellion over the season. While she disliked the stress over it, she was not as “oh goodness I will rebel against everything” like some regency heroines (see “The Season” “Bewitching Season” etc.). Agnes held her parents in high respect and wanted to please them. If this involved marrying some random guy, then she would, albeit begrudgingly, do it.
However from this typical beginning we get all Egypt-crazy and have a mummy unwrapping (which I never knew was “a thing” back then!) at a high-class party. Here is were she sees a mysterious young man for the first time, and we all just *know* that he’s her destined true match (and how right we are). Because while Lord Showalter might be the most eligible man in London, for all his impressive qualities (and big ego) we know he’s not her man.
I don’t want to ruin too much of the mystery and excitement of the storyline for you, but let me say, it’s pretty fantastic. Understanding Egypt's history more and the effect Napoleon had on the people of England was fantastic. She only took a few liberties which she explains at the end. Mostly the deviations were all “fixed” by the end of the novel. I love historical novels as long as they are creative enough, and this was SO creative.
The “mysterious young man” is Caedmon who, as a male lead, is pretty awesome. He’s the “not so rich” guy who falls for the rich girl, and holds out hope that it will all work out. I loved him for his intelligence, his confidence, and his spirit. He was so normal, I loved it! Even though this normal-ness made him a flatter character in general, I do think he compliments Agnes perfectly and is just a great guy.
She is totally setting this up for more books!! I’m so happy!! At least, the ending makes it seem like they could have many adventures. Although, it might be a way to end the book and give the readers knowledge of the characters’ future events. But I hope she writes more books about Agnes. She gave herself so much to write off of, and her characters are so amazing that more books are definitely needed!
As you can obviously tell, I ABSOLUTELY LOVED this book. Go read it.
P.S. The cover??? It’s completely gorgeous!! I would have read it just for the cover. . .
P.P.S. I read this in one day. Got it from the library at five and read it pretty much since then till about 10. It was THAT good.
Content Warning: Infrequent language (about two different words used around two-three times each).