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A Bitter Wind: Time Entanglement (Book 1)
Can the past be changed without creating a paradox? Does history repeat itself or is that something we tell ourselves to cover our poor choices? When Alexander ‘Ramses’ Smith is assigned to decipher the odd hieroglyphs of the Temple of Khnum—all heka (magic) breaks loose. As a teen, his interest was in metaphysical and sharing psychic experiences with his beloved grandmother. However, when she died, things turned dark when a Ouija Board freed a terrifying entity. He thought he was free of it when he shut his psychic gifts down and began a study of Egyptology—but Shezmu was waiting for him in Esna. Lex (Alexander) found others trapped by the time loop: afret (djinni), the ghost of a former archeologist, Dr. Broderick S. Gillwood, the Neteru (Egyptian gods/goddesses), all conspiring against his scientific training and logical mind. Lex soon realizes there is no choice but to obey the voices in his head and rely on the intuitive gifts he fought so hard to quash. Realizing he can see and sense what others cannot, Lex runs headlong into a past life that puts him dangerously susceptible to the hidden secrets infused in the stone ruins. He must re-define his understanding of the lines between imagination and reality or lose the battle for his mind with the darkness created by blood sorcery and a destiny (shay) he never expected. As the logical mind is confronted by the truth of its past lives and learns the impossible—time entangled by events of unspeakable nature—gods and ghosts demand attention from a young archeologist to face up to the truth of who he is.
Kirkus Review

In this debut fantasy, a young archaeologist struggles to decipher a temple’s puzzling hieroglyphics and his own paranormal talents. The University of Chicago dispatches Alexander “Ramses” Smith—aka Lex—to study a temple in Egypt. Lex arrives via the Nile River in Esna, hoping to perform research valuable enough to secure his doctorate. The Temple of Khnum, however, has proved difficult for archaeologists to study because it’s filled with confusing, supposedly incoherent hieroglyphics. In the bare-bones apartment procured by the university, Lex wonders if professor Orridge has sent him on a fool’s errand. When Lex enters the temple, he acknowledges and explores a curious energy within. Lex’s teenage years were spent under the tutelage of a clairvoyant grandmother, who realized he had gifts worth nurturing, but he doesn’t want to rely on them here. Then, after touching the bas relief of a priest, he starts hearing disembodied voices, including one that says, “Time here looped, curving in upon itself.” Back at the apartment, he remembers the journal of Dr. Broderick Gillwood, which had been slated for destruction until he pilfered it from the university. In a shocking feat of synchronicity, Gillwood also studied the Temple of Khnum, which Lex soon discovers is inhabited by ancient demons called afrets. Merrick conjures a narrative reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft—not thanks to hideous creatures, but because Lex’s story travels inward, through his own paranoia and terror, as much as it moves forward. Esna and the temple itself, described in lavish detail, persist as characters more memorable than some of the people (like the grocer Malik) Lex meets; at one point, the temple “mesmerized with teeming dust particles that sparkled as flecks of tinfoil.” Merrick also displays immense knowledge of Egypt, comparing temples to spiritual batteries and telling readers that they “consisted of multiple structures built over a long period of time, which reflected the evolution of culture and beliefs.” Her greatest success, however, is in isolating the reader alongside her protagonist and toying with both psychologically.
A supernatural fantasy impressive for its subtlety and Egyptian research. 
Pub Date: March 16th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4602-6094-4
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: FriesenPress
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online: Aug. 16th, 2016