THE SLEEPER IN THE SANDS
By: Tom Holland
Abacus Books, London
"What is it? Can you see anything?"
"Yes. Wonderful things."
The question was asked by Lord Carnarvon; the answer was given by
Howard Carter, as he first gazed upon the candle-lit burial chamber of
This may be the most famous dialogue in the history of archaeology and
the story of the discovery of the tomb of "King Tut" is
certainly one of the most famous. But Tom Holland has taken that oft-told
story, retained the historical accuracies, and has woven around that
history a wonderfully rich and fantastic supernatural thriller that will
keep the reader enthralled into the wee hours of the morning—especially
if the roll of thunder and the flash of lightning provides an appropriate
ambiance to consider once again the possibility of the "curse of the
Tom Holland, a British writer of considerable skill, has done this sort
of thing before—taken authentic historical mystery and then deftly
interpreted it with an occult explanation. His Lord of the Dead,
published a decade or so ago, offered a suggested explanation to Lord
Byron’s mysterious disappearance in the Balkans as he fought for Greek
independence against the Ottoman Empire—he became a vampire, an Undead.
Not for nothing did Bram Stoker place Dracula’s home on a craggy
mountain in Transylvania!
Tom Holland is even more imaginative in Sleeper in the Sands as
he traces some of archaeologist Howard Carter’s career prior to his
famed 1922 discovery. He works in many aspects to that career to serve the
ultimate purpose of his book—to provide an "historical" and
mythological basis to the "Mummy’s Curse"—including even his
sacking from the Egyptian Antiquities Service after a run-in with a
particularly loutish group of German tourists. His unemployment puts him
in a position to ultimately wind up working for Lord Carnarvon, who
financed the search for Tut-ank-Amen in the Valley of the Kings.
Stealing a page from 1001 Nights, Holland spins a tale tying
together the stories of medieval a Christian merchant, an Arab merchant, a
Sage of the Mountains, and even a desert jinni, to methodically weave
together ancient Egyptian and Israelite creation stories to explain the
practice of mummification of Egyptian royalty and ultimately the source of
the Mummy’s Curse. Along the way he works into the montage a good bit of
medieval Christian and Moslem theology and tradition.
All in all it’s a wonderfully crafted story that should provide hours
of reading enjoyment to any Egyptian archaeology enthusiast. Don’t miss
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