bookrev: Napoleon’s Pyramids by William Dietrich

Bill Dietrich is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist whose fiction books have thus far taken his readers from the Roman Empire (Hadrian’s Wall, The Scourge of God) to futuristic Australia (Getting Back) and Antarctica (Ice Reich).

In his novel, Napoleon’s Pyramids, Bill combines Napoleonic history and Egyptology with a fictional American adventurer (and assistant to Ben Franklin) named Ethan Gage. The result of this combination is a fast-paced action and fact filled novel paralleling and involving Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in the 1790’s.

I read this novel in three consecutive nights. It is one of those “difficult to put down” reads.

Ethan Gage wins a mysterious medallion in a card game in Paris just after the revolution. Many people covet it, and one thinks it worth murder, as Ethan gets framed for the murder of a call girl. Forcibly enlisted into Napoleon’s army of savants heading to Egypt, Ethan and his fellow Mason’s embark on a quest to help Napoleon unlock the power of the pyramids, to aid in his quest for global domination. Ethan, who has until this point meandered aimlessly through life, is forced to decide what he believes in, and if he discovered the secrets of the Pyramids (with the help of a mysterious woman, the savants and Egyptian sages), will he hand over the secrets to Napolean for his uses, or keep them safe from the hands of men?

My favorite parts of this novel are the historical descriptions: the filth and beauty of Paris of that time; the terror of the sea journey with Napoleon across the Mediterranean; the annihilation of the French fleet docked near Alexandria by British Admiral Nelson; and the well written mathematical decriptions of the pyramids and the puzzles surrounding them (Fibonacci number sequences in an action novel? you bet!).

Napoleon, Nelson and other historical figures are woven into the story seamlessly, breathing them to life through their interactions with Gage.

Highly recommended.

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