Reviewed by Chris
TITLE: The Jackal’s House
SERIES: Lancaster’s Luck #2
AUTHOR: Anna Butler
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 310 pages
RELEASE DATE: October 30, 2017
Something is stalking the Aegyptian night and endangering the archaeologists excavating the mysterious temple ruins in Abydos. But is it a vengeful ancient spirit or a very modern conspiracy….
Rafe Lancaster’s relationship with Gallowglass First Heir, Ned Winter, flourishes over the summer of 1900, and when Rafe’s House encourages him to join Ned’s next archaeological expedition, he sees a chance for it to deepen further. Since all the Houses of the Britannic Imperium, Rafe’s included, view assassination as a convenient solution to most problems, he packs his aether pistol—just in case.
Trouble finds them in Abydos. Rafe and Ned begin to wonder if they’re facing opposition to the Temple of Seti being disturbed. What begins as tricks and pranks escalates to attacks and death, while the figure of the Dog—the jackal-headed god, Anubis, ruler of death—casts a long shadow over the desert sands. Destruction follows in his wake as he returns to reclaim his place in Abydos. Can Rafe and Ned stand against both the god and House plots when the life of Ned’s son is on the line?
I can’t remember what prompted me read the first book in this series, The Gilded Scarab (not The Golden Scarab, like my brain insist on calling it), but I have been a huge fan since that first read. The alternate steampunky 19th century England was so my jam it isn’t even funny. And not only was it like everything I love about steampunk-style books, but the story was interesting and kinda unique. The characters, especially the main hero Rafe, were perfect fits for the world and the story being told. It was a lot of fun, and every time I got to the end I was really sad that there wasn’t more about Rafe, Ned, and all the various side characters that bring that story to life.
And then, after a couple years of what I assumed was pointless waiting, I found out that The Jackal’s House was due to come out soon.
*throws confetti into the air*
I was thrilled. I needed it right then. I couldn’t wait to see what happens next. And while it started off a bit slow, it built up nicely to what I think was an excellent sequel and what I can only hope (and near demand) is but the second chapter in at least a trilogy if not more.
If you haven’t read the Gilded Scarab (and this is me giving you the judgy face) stop now. Go read it. Come back when you’ve had like 10 cups of book-induced coffee, and have caught up. For everyone else:
This picks up not long after the events in book one. And the first section of this story is basically dealing with the fallout of various actions taken in that book, as well as giving us an introduction to Ned’s oldest child, Harry. Who is kinda adorable, even I have to admit to that. For Ned, most things are going on as normal (or as normal as they can get for the Heir to one of the Great Houses), but poor Rafe is being dragged further down the rabbit hole of his own House. Much to Rafe’s (and the current House heir, John) very vocal displeasure. So when Ned announces that it is time again to head back to Aegypt for his annual archaeological dig, Rafe is a bit…um, disappointed. Sad, even. But events (and politics) conspire to send Rafe as well–which thrills Ned to no end. Harry, Ned’s son, is less sold on the idea. But Ned is sure that Rafe can win the kid around. Ned is ever the optomist. So off to Aegypt they go.
From there, let’s just say that trouble is not native to Londinium.
As I said before, this does have a bit of a slow start (though no where near as slow as book one), but it ends up setting up the story well for what is to come. As things get more and more involved in Aegypt the tension grows and grows, and I really like that by the time it snaps you are just so damn ready for Rafe to shoot someone already.
I will say that the twist in this is something I most definitely should have seen coming, but didn’t. I kinda had inklings that something was up, and some of the players are pretty obvious, but I really liked how the book faked us out for a long enough time that when the reveal happened it was more surprising than I expected. And by the time I got to the end of this story I kinda wanted to go back and start the series all over again so I can see the groundwork for all this with this new knowledge. It is clearly there, but it was subtle enough that I missed or didn’t think a lot of it was important. Rereads for this series are going to be fun next time.
If you liked the first book in this series, I can’t help but think you will like this one as well. It is a bit better paced as well. There is no sudden “and now this is an action movie” twist near the end like in book one. Here it is a gradual build up to the climax instead of it coming out of nowhere. The characters are just as good. There wasn’t as much character building there as I would have liked, but they are still very enjoyable people to spend a couple hours with. And while Harry could have easily annoyed me–as most children do–he was used very well in the story. You like him enough, and you can clearly see the affection (even the reluctant affection of Rafe’s part) the characters have for him, but he isn’t the center of the story. That is still very much Rafe and Ned and their lovely if rather complicated relationship.
I had a lot of fun with this and I hope you do to. And I’m crossing my fingers that book three will not be far over the horizon.