Friday, July 29, 2011

Review: Wrapped - Jennifer Bradbury

Synopsis: Agnes Wilkins is standing in front of an Egyptian mummy, about to make the first cut into the wrappings, about to unlock an 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.

Review: While Wrapped certainly has allusions to the supernatural (mummy curses, ancient artifacts with power, ect.) and magical, no otherworldly powers come into play, which surprised me a little. When I first read a synopsis, my first thought was, Oh, this ought to be very strange indeed, and while it is a bit strange in its own way, it is a good strange. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even if the villains were a bit too obvious and some of the dialogue was less than pleasing. Agnes is a very strong, adventurous character whose thoughts and opinions seem properly suited for the sort of "modern" thoughts a girl her age would have had in 1815. In other words, she's not too much ahead of her time. The Author's constant alludements to Jane Austen (A Lady) and her novels will please any Austeneer, as well as lending a more historical feel to the setting (so few historical fiction stories mention the literature of the explored era).

The ending was both predictable, a little cliche, and surprising, leaving room for possible sequels if ever the Author decides to do so. At the same time, though, Wrapped doesn't need any, but I would not protest if there were. Agnes's romantic inclinations towards Caedmon is not vexing like so many "young romances" are in modern literature, and I would enjoy seeing it develop further.

And of course, the backdrop of the Napoleonic War, spies, and Ancient Egypt add much flavor, while making it thoroughly unique to many other historical-set spy stories. Napoleon's fascination with Egyptology is not a subject often explored, nor is the archeological discoveries made during that time, though as the Author points out in her Afterward, "unwrapping" parties (where mummies were unwrapped by party guests for entertainment) were more in vogue in later years. However, it's an acceptable liberty, and makes for a very interesting - and unique - way of introducing the wonderfully engaging events that Agnes and Caedmon soon find themselves "wrapped" up in.

Good job, Jennifer Bradbury!

Overall Rating: 

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