Book Reviews

Review Rating

With the October 2004 review, we began rating the books on the basis of one to four trowels; 
one trowel= don’t bother, to four trowels= run right out to your local book store and buy the hard cover!

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The Guardians of the Covenant by Tom Egeland

Reviewed on: January 1, 2012


English Translation: Kari Dickson
John Murray (Publishers): London
2010 (pb)

I often am suspicious of the novels promoted by under the assurance that “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…” I have also become somewhat jaded with the torrent of archaeological thrillers that promise to pry open an ancient religious secret that will topple a great world religion, or possibly all great religions. And my skepticism becomes finely tuned when the promotional blurb says something like “A treat for fans of Dan Brown.”

Tom Egeland’s The Guardians of the Covenant met all three of these criteria, but for some reason I purchased the book—perhaps it was because of the $3.00 plus shipping cost for a “like new” used copy, or my curiosity being piqued by the promise of a protagonist who was a Norwegian albino archaeologist. Regardless, I took the plunge and was mesmerized by the results! Tom Egeland has written a fascinating archaeological caper that takes our intrepid hero all over the globe in search of an artifact that has potentially devastating consequences for the three great religions that arose out of the caldron that was the ancient Middle East: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. But he has taken this tired old plot device and breathed new life in it—not an easy thing to do! He has also created a protagonist who is wonderfully complex: a very bright young scholar who doesn’t exactly lack courage, but one who recognizes his own limitations and has, admittedly, a surplus of neuroses and a delightfully self-deprecating sense of humor. Bjorn Belto is a hero for the 21st Century!

I won’t give away the plot, or even the mcguffin that has archaeologists, an Arab sheikh, assorted denizens of the underworld, a monomaniacal tycoon who traces his lineage back to Columbus’s discovery of the New World, and the Vatican chasing all over the world to discover. Bjorn’s quest to unearth the secrets of the nebulous Guardians of the Covenant takes him on a journey in time from 14th century BC Egypt to11th century Norway to the Vatican in the 12th and 16th centuries and Iceland in the 1200s; in the present day, he follows the trail of this mystical artifact from Iceland to Norway to England to Egypt to Italy to the United States and finally to a surprising denouement in the Dominican Republic! Suffice it to say that any novel that features these globe-trotting exploits and features Viking berserkers sailing up the Nile in search of plunder will get certainly grab and keep my attention!

Four trowels for this delightful and literate tale of high adventure.

Twenty Years in the Trenches: Archaeology in Fiction

William Gresens, longtime MVAC supporter and volunteer, has been writing reviews of archaeological fiction as MVAC’s book reviewer for twenty years.  In this interview Bill shares how he got started writing reviews for MVAC, how the genre has changed, highlights, and his thoughts looking forward. 

Bill Gresen’s Book Review 20th Anniversary

While Bill's reviews go back 20 years now, his relationship with MVAC goes back more than twice that long! The reviews capture some of the things we enjoy most about Bill-- he's perceptive, methodical, a clear thinker, and a whole lot of fun! We look forward to this relationship--and Bill's reviews!--continuing for many years to come.

The March 2021 review marks the 20th anniversary of reviews of archaeological fiction.  It has been my pleasure and great fun to while away the hours reading these books—for the most part, at least—and writing the reviews!  My thanks to MVAC allowing me to prattle on and I look forward to the years ahead.

Bill Gresens