Set against the rich tapestry of ancient Egypt, Luxor: Book of Past Lives is the story of Nebamun and Iramen, two brothers who are embalmers in Egypt during the era of the boy king, Tutankhamun. It is their duty to prepare the many bodies of the dead who land on their embalming table for a journey into the afterlife. Paralleling this ancient tale is the story of two different brothers, Abdul and Karim, who make their living by robbing the ancient tombs of Egypt in the late 1800’s, when the theft and sale of artifacts was at its peak. Woven throughout the novel are the mysterious intersections of the brothers’ lives, though separated by thousands of years. Luxor: Book of Past Lives is a masterful blend of fiction and historical detail, each chapter offering a window into the past, with details gleaned from countless historical accounts. It is a riveting tale of violence and greed, riches and poverty, and good and evil in the time of the pharaohs and beyond.
Luxor: Book of Past Lives sits somewhere in between for me. Good enough story but not amazing. I liked it but it dragged a little too much for me to fully love it.
The thing I liked the most in this book is how it follows the brothers Nebamun and Iramen, who are embalmers in 1324 B.C. and it also follows two different brothers, Abdul and Karim, who are graverobbers in 1874 A.D. I’ve always loved stories with parallels like this. People who know me know that I’m crazy about anything involving ancient Egypt but weirdly enough I liked the chapters in 1874 the most for some reason.
Another thing I liked was how this book wasn’t about ancien Egypt’s royalty like most stories involving this age are about. Sure, Tutankhamun was mentioned but he wasn’t the focus of the story. It was more about common people than anything else.
The writing was pretty enjoyable, even though I sometimes thought it all dragged a little. The details were vivid and fascinating to me, especially the embalming process because I never really read a lot about that. At least not in fictional stories.
All in All, Luxor: Book of Past Lives wasn’t bad but also not my favorite book ever. It had a lot of possitive elements that I like in a book like this. I loved the vivid details about ancient Egypt and the chapters set in the 1800’s were interesting too. If you’re a big history fan, especially if you love ancient Egypt as much as I do, then I’d recommend it.
Julie Bettendorf is a world traveler with a background in history and a degree in archaeology. Through her series of children’s travel books, she shares the wonderful world of travel with children and her parents, as Anthony Ant teaches kids about other cultures, customs, and traditions. She has currently published the second book in the Anthony Ant series, and is in the process of publishing her first work of adult historical fiction, entitled “Luxor: Book of Past Lives.” When Julie is not traveling with her daughter Erin, and son Max, she lives in Portland, Oregon.