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September 29, 2010 / schulerbooks

The Emperor’s Tomb – Steve Berry

Former Magellan Billet agent Cotton Malone has a genuine but complicated attraction to the exotic Cassiopeia Vitt. So when someone sends him realtime video of her being waterboarded, and demands that Cotton meet with agents to give back what she gave him — which was nothing, actually — he springs into action to save her life, as well as solve the puzzle of what she had, and who she took it from.
 
Finding the answer to that question brings him into contact with old friends and foes, as well as some very suspicious persons — both on “their” side, and on the other side of an incendiary raid on a historical house to take something incredibly important back. The something in question is an incredibly important piece of China’s history, which holds a secret that will determine that country’s immediate future, and ultimate fate.
 
There’s a question of oil, the matter of a Russian geologist’s missing child, and an age-old conspiracy that is pitting two powerful men against one another in a contest to see who will be the next Premier. Those related vectors will take Cotton, Cassiopeia, and some questionable allies deep into the heart of China, where they will have to solve the puzzle posed by the Emperor’s Tomb…
 
In the grand tradition of Steve Berry’s other Cotton Malone novels, The Emperor’s Tomb is a high-stakes chase across history and Continents. Uncertain alliances are formed and broken, allies become enemies – and vice versa – and ancient mysteries are interwoven with modern-day intrigue and action. Unfortunately, the author’s tendency to overwhelm the reader with historical facts is at an all-time high in this novel, and the lengthy discussions of Chinese philosophy become frankly tedious — especially when it seems like Berry is getting preachy. The big scientific macguffin of the book is also rather lackluster, which makes the true payoff — a memorable visit to the long-sealed Emperor’s Tomb, itself — seem like a solid gold solo in a mediocre song.
 
That said, The Emperor’s Tomb is a must for Berry fans, as certain issues that have haunted Cotton Malone for the last few books are finally resolved, and new issues brought out onto the table. But the book wouldn’t be a good introduction to the series as a whole: it could have been a much better and tighter read if Berry had trimmed a lot of needless debate, and stuck to the excellent mix of speculative history and action-packed, international excitement that make his better books truly sing.
 
The Emperor’s Tomb drops November 23rd, 2010
– Jim Tremlett, Eastwood
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