Review: in 'The Vessel of Ra' set up leaves readers in suspense

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The Vessel of Ra” is a solid read combining historical fiction, Egyptian mythology and magic. Every minute of the story is packed with action, mystery and layers of secrets. All of the characters absolutely shine and are unique.

Lucy and Octavia’s family, the Klaereons, has a unique bond with the demons whose origins are rooted in Egyptian mythology. As Lucy learns through her adventures in Venice, she and her sister have not been told everything about the deal her ancestor made to control the demons. As Lucy learns the truth, she becomes even more determined to fix things leading to a shocking turn in the story, but in this case, the reader must trust the author and keep reading.

Lucy encounters Carlo, whose last name may sound familiar to history buffs — Borgia. Carlo’s family also has some secrets as well, and Carlo has been kept in the dark by his mother and his grandfather, which leads to some startling revelation about who ... or what he is.

Despite not knowing who Lucy is and how their families are connected, Carlo finds Lucy’s cause noble, and he quickly becomes her champion without fully understand the implications of such a partnership. In fact, family secrets play a pivotal role in the story since once Carlo and Lucy meet, their fates are tied together as they race against the clock and toward Lucy’s inevitable trial with Ra.

Author Catherine Schaff-Stump does an excellent job describing characters in a way that doesn’t bog down the story. It is easy to visualize everyone in the story, including creatures like Ra, Isis and Thoth.

The strong descriptions extend to locations where the story takes place — occupied Venice — Carlo’s hometown, the Underworld and England — the location of Lucy and Octavia’s magical estate. In fact, bits of Venice history are hinted at enough that it would be nice to learn more about that political situation. However, with so much going on, there’s no way the author could include more, especially since Venice politics at the time the story is set doesn’t directly influence issues the characters encounter.

The only downside is that there is a lot of setup. While the layers of secrets and how they intertwine and intersect drive the story forward as characters uncover lies and half-truths, the full truth is never revealed. The reader just encounters more secrets and more humans and otherworldly entities unwilling to reveal what they are truly after. This becomes wearisome by the end. However, it is possible, based on other events that happened in the book, that the reader is in for a long play and patience will be required as the series progresses. After all, the Klaereons and Borgias have been working in the shadows and keeping secrets for centuries. Who are we, as readers to expect everything to become unraveled and revealed in one book?

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