Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Grave Robbers of Genghis Khan

The Grave Robbers of Genghis Kahn
by P.B. Kerr
Recommended Ages: 12+

P.B. Kerr, also known to readers of his adult fiction as Philip Kerr, wraps up his seven-book "Children of the Lamp" series with this book, in which 14-year-old twin djinn Philippa and John Gaunt face the possibility that they must make the ultimate sacrifice to save the world. Someone has found, and worse still, plundered the tomb of 13th-century Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, and used something buried with him to start a worldwide plague of volcanic eruptions that could spell doom for life as we know it. To find him and stop him, they must solve the 800-year-old mystery of where the tyrant was buried, an adventure spanning several continents, reviving the all-but-lost art of using flying carpets, and costing the life of more than one beloved friend. And it all seems to lead to the fulfillment of a grim prophecy about twin djinn.

Meantime, the twins' Uncle Nimrod's aptly-named butler Groanin gives his notice, only to have a series of misadventures that teach him the lesson, "You don't know what you have till it's gone." Between the twins and their hapless human friend, the characters in this book experience a timeless Moroccan bazaar, a walkabout in the Australian outback, a kidnap by ice-cream-truck-driving gangsters in Italy, a stay with a gang of glamorous Romanian teens, a cruise with Somali pirates, a road trip with fanatical Yemeni hoodlums, and a way-too-close encounter with a gigantic creepy-crawly in the streets of Kandahar, Afghanistan. Most of the experiences on that list fall to poor, homebody Groanin, but the twins have their share of thrills and chills too, such as when their attempt to possess a herd of wild camels leads to a brush with a terrifying spirit, and when the lightning bug of your nightmares stalks them in the mist on a Mongolian steppe.

I think it's a pity Kerr decided to end the twins' adventures here. Unlike him, I didn't see the inevitability of their exit from the world of djinn power, and I think the series could be plausibly revived. After all, there are still 19 letters of the alphabet from which he can cull the initials of the titles of their further adventures. And with each adventure touching on pages of history and patches of the globe that aren't often covered in teen fiction, there is also plenty of potential for more culturally enriching, educational fun, with emphasis on the fun. This series is full of beauty spots that readers of different skill levels can appreciate, such as the hilarious sentence (from The Five Fakirs of Faizabad) "John could see Dracula's point," and the late Mr. Rakshasas' wise aphorism, "The future is certain. It's the past you can't predict." If this really is the end for the Gaunts, it will be interesting to see what new marvel Kerr invents next.

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