My rating: 3 of 5 stars
After the mighty awesomeness that was He Shall Thunder in the Sky, any book Elizabeth Peters might write would have its work cut out for it. Thunder is so clear a culmination of the Ramses/Nefret love story that in many ways it serves as an admirable stopping point for the series. It would be somewhat unfair to Lord of the Silent and its immediately following book, Children of the Storm, to call them afterthoughts. But Silent definitely takes the Emerson saga into a new phase, one that loses something of the charm of many of the previous books while at the same time still having charm of its own to offer.
Like many of the later Amelia Peabody books, this one brings back characters we’ve seen before. This time around we got Margaret Minton, last seen in Book Five, Deeds of the Disturber, annoying the devil out of Kevin O’Connell. She is of course much older at this point, though in some ways not particularly more mature–because her entire plot arc involves her reacting to a surprise encounter with none other than Sethos himself. This being a series with a long tradition of pairing off side characters along with the main action, it’ll probably surprise no new readers to this series that at least on the part of Miss Minton, the encounter proved quite romantic. Nor will anyone who read Thunder be surprised that this book, in playing out Sethos’ reaction to the woman chasing him, continues the whole concept of reforming the erstwhile Master Criminal. It’s inevitable, really, given what Margaret’s previous appearance in the series had established about her resemblance to Amelia–and, of course, Sethos’ own attachment to same. It’s a nice touch on Peters’ part. (Though at the same time, I must admit to being vaguely disappointed, since he’s one of the liveliest characters in the entire cast, and the idea of reforming him is almost ridiculous. As Sethos himself snarkily observes!)
Meanwhile, fans of Ramses may find it almost disappointing that now that he’s won Nefret, the resolution of that romantic tension fundamentally changes the position of those two characters in the overall framework of the series. There’s good stuff here with the British government being desperate to pull Ramses back into intelligence work, and Ramses adamantly refusing with his family’s staunch support. Nor can I really speak against the value of exploring how the newly married younger Emersons’ relationship develops, given that similar exploration between Amelia and Emerson has of course defined the heart of this entire series. But Ramses is not his father, no matter how kindly the advice of his parents in marital matters might be meant, and so some readers may find that the passages where Ramses and Nefret explore their new married state drag a bit in comparison to the rest of the book.
There’s some fun here as well exploring the character of young Sennia, and the introduction of Jumana and her brother Jamil expands the cast a bit, providing good contrast between a young woman who wants to prove herself and her reprobate, lazy brother. And there’s still enough substance to Peters’ writing here that unlike later novels in the series, this one’s still a pretty solid read. Three stars.