Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Jennifer Bradbury
For ages 12 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2011   ISBN: 978-1416990079

Agnes Wilkins, the daughter of a highly respected English peer, is having her debut this year, and soon she will be presented at court. Her mother is eager to see Agnes settled, and she is delighted that Lord Showalter is clearly interested in her daughter. He is rich, highly admired by people who matter, and he is considered the most eligible bachelor in London. Agnes knows that she should be glad of his regard, but she is having a hard time summoning up any enthusiasm.

The problem is not just that Agnes has no real feelings of affection for Lord Showalter, it is also that she rather resents the fact that her life has been all planned out. What if she doesn’t want to marry? What if she would like to use her considerable intelligence to do something more with her life, as her brother David has done? Unfortunately, it the year is 1815, and young women of her class are expected to marry the men their parents have chosen for them.

Eager to host a memorable first party of the season, Lord Showalter arranges to have an Egyptian mummy brought to his house. His guests are invited to cut and peel away the wrappings around the mummy and are promised that they can keep any items that they find hidden among the wrappings. When it is Agnes’ turn, she has a hard time getting into the spirit of things. She cannot help feeling that making a spectacle in this way is rather unseemly. Then, out of the blue Lord Showalter announces that the British Museum has sent the wrong mummy to the house, and that the entertainment must stop. When the guests are occupied listening to Showalter, Agnes find a little figurine of a jackal in the wrappings, and for some reason she decides to keep it, even though the guests have been asked to hand over anything that they have found.

Not long after the unwrapping is brought to a sudden halt, the body of a servant is found outside Lord Showalter’s house, and in the morning, Agnes finds out that several of the guests from the party have been attacked or burgled. All the people in question were the ones who were invited to unwrap the mummy. It does not take Agnes long to realize that someone is looking for the little jackal figurine. Agnes does not know why someone is so determined to retrieve the little iron object, but she is eager to find out. She never imagines that the little jackal will lead her to uncover a plan that might very well give Napoleon what he needs to defeat Britain.

This enthralling novel combines fact with fiction to give readers a singular reading experience. Readers who enjoy taking a trip into the past through books, will be fascinated by the plot, which combines romance with Napoleonic history and Egyptology. Readers are also given a sense of what it was like to be an educated women in England in the early 1800’s.