Some elements here will be too reminiscent of Tolkien for a seasoned audience, such as John’s eye of Ra amulet and its similarity to the One Ring. But Gartner has a knack for action and creating compelling historical personalities; the portrait of the future Alemanni king, Crocus, makes a distant age more relatable for modern readers. The book’s energetic writing captures the growing pains of both protagonists—Sarah as she pulls away from her family in adolescence, and John as he comes to terms with his role as a younger brother—along with rich historical detail on the ancient Roman empire, including its conflicts with Germanic peoples.
The Roman setting is brimming with bustling life: lively depictions of Saturnalia celebrations, vicious gladiator combat, and even slavery in Roman society, give suitable, nuanced color to this historical time period. Still, Gartner never lets the harsh realities of ancient Rome bring down his story too much: he keeps it light for his middle-grade audience with callbacks to the present (John whispering the Spiderman theme as he traverses the wall of a Roman fortress is a delightful example). This spirited story will appeal to eager young historians.
Takeaway: Middle school readers who treasure ancient history with a side of adventure will welcome this fantasy story.
Great for fans of: Caroline Lawrence’s The Roman Mysteries series, Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Treehouse series.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
“Fans of Ben Gartner’s first book will gobble this up!”
“Sol Invictus by Ben Gartner is a fantastic follow-up that delivers! Keeping true to the spirit of the first book and its lovable heroes, this sequel to Eye of Ra ramps up the action, character growth, and overall stakes. Sol Invictus delivers a fun, page-turning adventure with sword fights, wolf pups, narrow escapes, and even ancient cheesecake! A fun time-traveling sibling adventure story with heart and heart-pounding action. I can’t wait to read what comes next for John and Sarah!”
Once again, Gartner deftly weaves real-life history into a compelling adventure, offering high-stakes, realistic danger and vivid scene-setting.
Must read 🏆
Middle grade readers with a love of adventure and history are sure to connect with John and Sarah in this dynamic story.
“I was so excited to read this second book in the Eye of Ra series and was not disappointed! It’s a thrilling ride from start to finish as the brother and sister MCs travel back in time again, this time to ancient Rome where they have to accomplish a seemingly impossible task or be stuck in time. With tons of action, humor, excellent character development, and historical details that will make you feel like you’ve been swept back in time too, this is sure to be a winner for middle grade readers.”