Monday, April 20, 2015

Casting the Gods Adrift

by Geraldine McCaughrean

Story summary: In Ancient Egypt, a young boy and his brother are taken under the wing of the new Pharaoh Akhenaten. But his father, devoted to the old gods, is not at all happy with this new pharaoh's new single god. Young Tutmose has to choose between family and his experience of the new pharaoh's new Faith.

Why You Should Read This:
  • Interesting look at what it would have been like to live in such a time of drastic change in Ancient Egypt.
  • Awesome illustrations.
  • Surprising depth in the familial relations for a book for such young readers.

And Why You Shouldn't:
  • It really is for children. I almost didn't count it on my reading count, because it's so short.
  • You could possibly read a pro-relative-truth stance into it.

Thoughts: I've always found Akhenanten fascinating. Such a strange and abrupt turn to monotheism. Of course, as a Christian, there is special meaning and interest for me because of this. I was happy to see that this book treated him and his beliefs respectfully and complexly.

I was slightly disappointed with the "epilogue" and this particular sentence: "Sometimes, I think it doesn't matter much what you believe, so long as you never start to doubt it. I am a craftsman. I believe in beauty[.]" (pg. 92-3). There's a point to that, of course. I'm not objecting per se. In fact, it reminds me of what I love about the book The Ball and the Cross by G.K. Chesterton: it's more the fact that the two protagonists (Catholic and Atheist) believe what they do unflinchingly that is celebrated, rather than their particular sets of beliefs. But still, I'm a big fan of objective truth, and always on the lookout for books aligning with this philosophy. So slightly disappointed was how it went.

Anyway. Not an important criticism, really. The main issue was that it took place in a section that was, in a way, summing up the themes of the whole book. But all in all, it was a great book for kids, exploring what life would be like in such a tumultuous time.

Grade: 3 stars

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