Editorial Review: Ancient Civilizations - Book 1 of Lamentations and Magic by Russell Cowdrey
When a jaded thief teams up with an idealistic archaeologist to solve an ancient mystery, they have no idea that their search will lead them to the other side of the universe.
After a prologue set in 321 B.C., the story of Ancient Civilizations jumps forward to 1883, where an intrepid thief named Louisa Sophia steals Egyptian papyri from the Louvre. Her heist leads her to Egypt, where she crosses paths with an Archaeologist called Dr. Benjamin McGehee and his (unofficially) adopted son, Abu Saqr. Louisa needs Ben’s help to solve an ancient mystery, and since he has some free time before his next expedition, he accepts. Their group, escorted by Duffadar Nahal and the Thirteenth Bengal Lancers, set out on their quest but find danger lurking around every turn. Thanks to their cunning and ingenuity, they manage to stay one step ahead of their foes, but nothing could prepare them for what they eventually discover. Instead of the answers and treasures they seek, Ben, Louisa, Abu, and the Thirteenth Lancers end up transported to Aaru. However, the fabled Field of Reeds from Egyptian mythology turns out to be a planet on the other side of the universe where magic is all too real. With old enemies still in pursuit and new ones lying in wait, Ben and Louisa must try and survive while looking for a way home.
Ancient Civilizations features a cast of characters that is so large that the author included a compendium at the back of the book. However, the core focus always remains on Ben, Louisa, and Abu as they make their way from one sticky situation to the next. All three of them are fascinating characters with interesting backstories that are revealed over the course of their adventures. They all faced a lot of adversity in their past too, which makes it easy to empathize with their plights and root for them when they face danger. The story is highly imaginative, and the first half could easily have been an Indiana Jones movie. However, halfway through, things change in a big way, and the tone shifts more towards something like Stargate or the John Carter stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Fortunately, none of this feels derivative, and Russell Cowdrey injected a lot of his own imaginative ideas into the setting and worldbuilding of the novel.
Overall, Ancient Civilizations is an excellent read with an imaginative spin on historical people and events. The book is well-researched, and it is easy to become invested in the characters. Fans of Indiana Jones, Stargate, and Edgar Rice Burroughs will enjoy Ancient Civilizations the most. However, the fast-paced action, unexpected twists, and great cast of characters should appeal to everyone. With this first book in the Lamentations and Magic series, the author has also set the scene for what promises to be a riveting saga.