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Empire of the Skull
Alec Devlin

Philip Caveney

Average Review Rating Average Rating 8/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Red Fox

Published : 2009

Copyright : Philip Caveney 2009

ISBN-10 : PB 1-86230-637-0
ISBN-13 : PB 978-1-86230-637-0

Publisher's Write-Up

Mexico, 1924. At his father's hacienda, restlessly waiting for adventurer Ethan to arrive, sixteen-year-old Alec and his faithful valet Coates head out into the wilderness in search of an ancient archaeological site... only to discover that Mexico is every bit as perilous as The Valley of the Kings. Pursued by ruthless bandits, involved in a plane crash in the middle of remote rain-forest and finally an unwelcome guest in a lost Aztec city where the inhabitants still practice rituals of human sacrifice, once again Alec must use all of his skills and stamina to survive.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Chrissi (301109) Rating (8/10)

Review by Chrissi
Rating 8/10
This is the latest outing of Alec Devlin, with his manservant Coates. Alec’s father has been transferred to Mexico and Alec has been reading up on the history of South America. As he is bored with his studies he convinces Coates to ride with him to see an Olmec artefact without informing anyone of where they are going, even though the government of Mexico is unsettled with bandits and anti-government revolutionaries roaming the lands.

Alec and Coates arrive at the artefact and are met by men who threaten to kidnap him for ransom. They are found by Ethan who initially bluffs the men into riding away but they quickly return when their compatriots join them. Alec, Ethan and Coates escape and are very lucky to be picked up by an aeroplane which is en route to Veracruz, from which they will have to make their way home. Unfortunately, the aeroplane goes off course and crashes into the jungle, leaving the party stranded and headed for a city vaguely glimpsed through the jungle canopy.

The adventure of Alec and his friends is for a teenage audience. It is engaging with the mixture of Indiana Jones imagery and contextual modern issues such as deforestation. The writing is succinct and sympathetic, with well drawn characters and accessible historical references. I enjoyed this, even though I have not read any of Alec Devlin’s adventures, as it was not reliant on the reader having read the previous trials, although I am sure that as the book tells us of a recent flight from Egypt, that the stories could have been read consecutively.

I did not get the feeling that this was particularly aimed at girls, the details of the vicious games and the use of the compass were more suited to the sensibilities of younger boys, but I am sure that the story will be well received by anyone with an interest in a good adventure story. I always like the way that you learn something without realising when you read it in a story, and I had not known very much about the history of South America, beyond Conquistadors and rain forests, so I am now better informed…not a bad thing at all.

It is peculiar, given that I have read some of Philip Caveney’s previous work, that his adult novels are not listed, although I can see the benefit of this decision, as it would not be desirable to have younger readers choosing some of adult novels by mistake.
Chrissi (30th November 2009)

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