Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Book Review - Jennifer Bradbury's Wrapped

Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury
Published by: Atheneum
Publication Date: May 24th, 2011
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
Challenge: Valley of the Kings
Rating: ★

Agnes Wilkins' debut is being kept under wraps. Her mother is having her dress secretly made at their house, far away from the prying eyes that might wander past a dress shop. Agnes' debut will be the splash of the season, if only her mother could get her to stop reading Mansfield Park or quoting the other books by A Lady in several different languages, Greek and Russian amongst them. Her bookishness might just put off the dashing Lord Showalter. But then again, her magpie tendencies of keeping exotic knickknacks that her brother David sends from around the world as he sails with the Queen's navy might appeal to the collector and amateur Egyptologist, Showalter. Before her big debut, she is invited to a mummy unwrapping at Lord Showalter's home. Agnes and her brother are among the first chosen to cut the mummy open, all under the watchful eyes of Mr. Caedmon Stowe, of the British Museum. But there's been a mix up and the wrong mummy was sent. All discoveries are asked to be returned to the mummy and bundled off to the museum. Only Agnes never showed anyone the metal wolf's head she found, and Showalter did say she could keep what she found, before the error was discovered...

Agnes' desire to keep that little trinket sets in motion a series of events that could destroy or save England. A mummies curse is soon descending on the attendants of the party, which ended with a rather shocking death of a waiter. Agnes plans to tell her father right away, he being of some importance within the government, but instead of doing what is logical, she sets off secretly to the museum and finds Caedmon, and maybe a little romance. Bucking tradition and sneaking around with Caedmon, even if it's not fun and games, but the very fate of the British Empire, is better than the life Agnes was preparing to endure. Can all end up right and an army of undead soldiers at the command of Napoleon be stopped?

First off, when someone says a book is about mummies, you expect it to be about mummies, not having the mummies relegated to an almost insignificant plot point. This book is about a young girls entrance into society and how she secretly bucks the norms and saves her country at the same time. If I had known this going in I would have had different expectations. Damn you cover blurbs! You make a book sound so wonderful and appealing and dash my hopes like a mummy being unskillfully unwrapped at a party by amateurs, all be it a few years before they actually became fashionable, which irks me no end. Instead I was crabby and irritable while reading the book. Now you may ask, would this change my one star rating? The answer is no. Even if I had gone in knowing what the book was about I would still have called out the flat writing, the generic storytelling and the one dimensional characters. If Agnes had bucked the tradition of this genre further and enlisted the help of her father, I might have been more forgiving. Instead she blunders about and solves an incredibly easy cypher, which insults the name of the Rosetta Stone, and which the French could have easily figured out before her, but unbelievably didn't. As I read in another review, these characters felt so staged. The writer told, didn't show.

Another major annoyance, the affectation of always quoting "A Lady," aka Jane Austen. I wanted to harm Agnes. I don't think anyone would be always saying "A Lady," I think they'd be more likely to say the book's title. Also, the little nudge nudge, wink wink of hinting who the authoress really was was insulting. Jane Austen was only revealed AFTER her death, there where no hints. Blurg. I will forgive the stupidly named Egyptian War Deity Wepwawet, because he really existed. Though really, I would have chosen any other deity so I didn't have to type Wepwawet out and be laughed at by my readers. In the final analysis, I'm sure I will forget this book in no time, hence my having to write the review so quickly, because I know there was nothing memorable in this book. Wrapped feels like a story I've read a thousand times without any originality. If you want Napoleonic Spies, read Lauren Willig, if you want mummies, read Elizabeth Peters or R.L. LaFevers. In fact, if you want zombie soldiers being controlled by a mystical Egyptian staff, read R.L.Lafevers' Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris. Same plot point, only handled with originality and a true authorial voice, not a flat lifeless string of words arranged one after the other.


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