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WesternSFA


Cries from the Lost Island
by Kathleen O'Neal Gear
DAW Books; 309 pp; $26.
Published: March 2020

A tragic love story that echoes through the ages. Hal is a sixteen-year-old in a small Colorado town. He is the ultimate outsider, awkward, nigh on friendless, and a wiz at ancient history, especially Egyptian and Roman. He’s even won prizes. He has a girl friend named Cleo, who is Egyptian and whose parents were killed in an uprising in Egypt. Because her closest relatives live in this small town, her’s and Hal’s lives cross.  As they should; for she was Cleopatra and he has visions of Marcus Antonius, aka Marc Antony, and Hal completely enamored, will do anything for her. He has a best friend, Robert, who prefers to be Roberto, the Biker Witch (because he does follow Wiccan practices, of a sort) also an outcast, not too much interested in history, but willing to learn bits from Hal.

Cleo has an ancient medallion (of course!) given to her by her parents. She desperately wants to find the Island of the Two Flames, so she can be finally released into death and join with Marcus Antonius. Her soul is in a netherworld called Duat because she’s being punished for what she did to Marcus Antonius and so is constantly reborn.  No surprise, she’s tired of that.

Hal has intense visions of Egypt from the time of Cleopatra and Antonius. At first, I thought he was the reincarnated Marc Antony but he’s not. But because he is madly in love with the present-day Cleo, he will do anything to help her reunite with the ancient Roman. Roberto, loyal friend that he is, will help anyway he can.

But tragedy intervenes in a horrible way and Hal’s psychiatrist mother decides he needs to get away. Conveniently, his uncle is going back to head up his part of a huge archaeological dig in the Nile delta of the city called Pelusium. Ol’ Uncle Moriarty has a nasty agenda of his own, as he’s quite aware of the priceless medallion. Pelusium, the site, among other things of a huge Roman/Egyptian battle is where Cleopatra’s and Antonius’ unknown tombs just might be found.

Because Robert also witnessed the tragedy, the families agree he should accompany Hal to Egypt. And of course, here’s where the story takes off. This is also my favorite party of the novel because of the detail and the fascinating look at the huge multi-national dig in the Nile delta. Trust me, the tale really picks up steam and the finish is as dramatic as you could wish. What was confusing with this novel was the beginning.  Things fell into place pretty quickly so that Hal and Roberto could get to Egypt. I also thought Hal was the reincarnation of Marc Antony and it was the reason he loved the present-day Cleo so much. But he’s just sort of the conduit for highly detailed visions of the past from Marc Antony’s perspective, mostly. It was a bit confusing.

And just so you know, there is murder, mystery and mayhem in this tale, glittering Egyptian finds in tombs, demons and old gods. So, does Cleo finally reunite with Marcus Antonius in the afterlife, finally freeing her from the endless cycle of rebirth? And Hal? How does he handle this? Once the story draws to an end—with a spectacular version of “it was a dark and stormy night,” Hal and Roberto find themselves asked to join another Egyptian dig at Karnak.

There’s another adventure to come! ~~ Sue Martin

 For more titles by Kathleen O’Neal Gear click here

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