The writers do all that pretty well and settle us down into a story where a mysterious young woman appears from nowhere, makes new friends, then all get relocated to history and the Roman/Egyptian wars. The readers know a gang of cultists is following Erimem, but all she and her new friends know is ancient history is violent and smells. A lot.
The story is very much (at this point) a traditional time travel tale you might have read in the 1970s; only Erimem and one of the party (a historian) can make themselves understood, the other characters have to do the best they can and avoid being killed by either locals, Romans or cultists.
The story works well as it puts Erimem into contact with Cleopatra and allows the character of Erimem to be well-explored and have some anguish – her friends tell her Egypt is no longer a super-power and she wants to change history. This thread isn’t pursued very far and the story then balances some history with a gripping adventure story that ends well for Erimem and most of her new friends. They even grab themselves time travel technology and plenty of loose ends to set up a new series of books.
As someone who was familiar with Erimem from audio, this particular writer did struggle at times to reconcile that character with the warrior woman presented on the pages of this book. I also wonder if the audience for the character is large enough to make it a viable series. If you take away the vague Doctor Who connection (as they had to) does this interest fans enough? Time will tell, and we wish it well.
Despite a somewhat circuitous setup, this is a well written story and bodes well for the rest of the series.
ERIMEM: THE LAST PHARAOH / AUTHOR: IAN MCLAUGHLIN, CLAIRE BARTLETT / PUBLISHER: THEBES PUBLISHING / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW