Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life, by P.J. Hoover (Starscape, Sept 2014, upper middle grade), takes as its starting point the premise that Tutankhamen did not, in fact, die. Instead, during his evil uncle's attempt to dispose of him and claim the throne, Tut became immortal--14 years old forever. Now he's living in Washington, D.C., under the protection of an 18 year old immortal Gilgamesh, and Gil is making him go to eighth grade. Again. But that's not the worst of it-- his uncle also became an immortal, and now is raising the power of Set, god of chaos and destruction. to take over the world.
And for Tut, this seems like the perfect opportunity to finally revenge himself on the man who murdered his family. To kill an immortal, though, requires a special weapon, and hidden in the city is the one god-created knife that will do the job. But can Tut find it in time?
On his side is his little army of faithful Shabti (small figures placed in one's tomb to serve in the afterlife--the Shabti are absolutely awesome and provide both comic relief and the most heart-rending moment of the story) and a fellow eighth-grader of a geeky sort (still mourning Pluto's lost planetary status, for instance) who through sheer persistence becomes Tut's friend. Horus, sharing Tut and Gil's apartment in cat form, is an uncertain ally, and Gil himself has no intention of letting Tut find the knife, if he can stop it.
And meanwhile, the sinister worshippers of Set are growing in strength, and calamity is nigh! Can Tut figure out what to do in time, or will it be (with many apologies to P.J. Hoover) game, Set, and match?
So in essence this is a heist story mixed with mythological mayhem--find the hidden treasure and thwart the bad guys, while running around a city full of ancient gods and magic. There's a nice balance of Egyptian mythology and contemporary life that makes for interesting and fun reading. Although Rick Riordan fans would be obvious readers, I'd actually lean more toward the heist fans on this one--it's not really the same "kids finding powers" of Riordan's books, but rather kids tearing around a city fighting, and sometimes causing, mayhem. It's also one for those who like magic intruding into in the very ordinary world--it doesn't offer the marvelous possibility to the reader that he or she might get that letter from Hogwarts, or find out their mom was Athena, but it is fun to imagine that one of your classmates might be immortal, or to consider the possibility that three Egyptian deities are guarding a secret chamber in the Library of Congress.
It takes a some effort to accept the premise that even after millennia of life Tut is still very much a fourteen-year-old (and he does indeed come across very much like an ordinary adolescent--self-centered, still uncertain about girls, impulsive, etc.). That being said, it is entirely possible the target audience, who have never been older than 14 either, will have little problem with it (not knowing as I do (ha ha) what it is to be truly grown-up). Because of this, it's a book I'd recommend much more strongly to kids much more strongly than I would to grown-ups.
Here are other reviews, at Jen Robinson's Book Page and Ms. Yingling Reads
disclaimer: review copy received courtesy of the author
(Another one for my multicultural sci fi/fantasy list, as Tut is a North African protagonist, shown believably as such on the cover....)