Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Sunrise on the Mediterranean by Suzanne Frank

From Publisher's Weekly
One second, savvy 26-year-old English-American time-traveler Chloe Kingsley is in 1996, the next she finds herself being pulled up from the sea in ancient Israel. In this colorful, well-researched third installment in Chloe's time-traveling adventures (Reflections in the Nile, Shadows on the Aegean), she is transported into biblical times at the beginning of King David's reign. In neighboring Egypt, internecine conflicts surround the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten. The book starts off slowly, as Frank recapitulates the previous stories and explains how Chloe, a contemporary artist and one-time U.S. Air Force pilot, and Cheftu, her husband, a 19th-century French doctor whom she met on a previous time travel trip, have become separated. Added to this already convoluted setup is the character of RaEm, a dangerous ancient Egyptian woman who has been inhabiting Chloe's body in the 20th century and who is now stuck with Cheftu in the same time period as Chloe, on a deserted island somewhere near Egypt. The tale picks up steam once the author is fully embarked on her quest to fill some crucial gaps in ancient history via an intriguing plot in which people with modern knowledge interact with important historical figures. Chloe assists David's people in the invasion of the city that becomes Jerusalem, and designs the symbolic star of David; Cheftu becomes scribe to King David and a writer of the Old Testament; and RaEm connives to become Pharaoh's co-regent and attempts to use 20th-century scholarship to make a frightening change in the course of history. The juxtaposition of modern-day observations and expressions and archaic situations ("there was no direct translation for my words: Duh!") gives a good shot of humor to the clever, suspenseful narrative.

I thought this was the dullest of the series, having read the first two books in it. This one just didn't grab me. Maybe it's because my biblical history is a bit sketchy, harkening back to my Sunday School days when I was in 2nd great and learning about Yahweh and the Israelites.

A slow beginning, as usual it takes a little time to become accustomed to the period that Chloe and Cheftu have traveled to. Then they have to find each other, at least in the book it didn't take forever, and this time Chloe is in her own skin with red hair and pale white skin. Their reunion is a bit anti-climatic, but things pick up once they do, but they both become slaves! And have their ears pierced with 1/4 inch holes and chains put through them - major bummer! But, eventually they are able to show they are worth more to David and his men than just slaves and are given the opportunity to regain their freedom (separately, Chloe's mission to help the Israelites capture Jerusalem was probably the best part of the whole book.) After that they become close friends with David and witness the formation of Jerusalem.

Much of this book is devoted to the Jewish faith and the Chosen people and the formation of Zion. Many stories from the bible are recognizable and explained, particularly of David, and we get a sense of where many stories of the bible were tales handed down orally from generation to generation until finally they were captured by scribes (Cheftu being one of them) for posterity. As interesting as this might be for some, I found it pretty dry, and there wasn't much excitement or action. Plus, I got a little tired of reading about how Chloe was "living" the Bible. It seemed like much of the book was Chloe and Cheftu living as man and wife in a house, working long hours, eating, making love and falling asleep. Dullsville.

Some of the side plotlines were more interesting with RaEm in Egypt and the now immortal Dion from the last book reappearing, still as much in love with Cheftu as ever. This book has put me so off the series that I think I'm going to wait before reading the next one.


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