4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads
I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
A book about archaeologists? Boudicca? Set in Cambridge?
This tale about a young girl who dreams of being an archaeologist one day is written by an archaeologist, and it shows. A fast-paced and thrilling adventure, packed full of historical and archaeological references, I loved this one! I only wish it had been around when I was Samantha’s age. The use of illustrations was a brilliant idea – at the beginning of every chapter we see a page of Samantha’s beloved notebook, which also provides information for those perhaps unsure of the period of history that the book covered, or unfamiliar with the city of Cambridge. For example, one page was a timeline of British history (complete with mini illustrations!) whilst another was a map of Cambridge, with all the colleges marked. Readers should not be put off by Samantha’s young age (she is twelve), in fact I think it makes her all the more interesting. Such determination and ambition at that age makes for a great character, plus she’s naive enough to not completely understand and work things out right away, which leaves room for the reader to make their own judgements.
One thing I really loved were all the little references, nods to the amazing field that is archaeology (not at all biased here). The Pitt-Rivers twins: Augustus Pitt Rivers was a nineteenth century archaeologist, and his collection founded the basis of the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford, which also happens to be my favourite museum EVER (seriously, it’s amazing, it’s basically just a giant warehouse PACKED with amazing objects). The references to ancient burial places like Cairn and Barrows. Ned and Graham Aubrey, who I’m guessing were named after John Aubrey, discoverer of Avebury and an early archaeologist/antiquarian. Mostly things you wouldn’t know unless you’d studied archaeology yourself, which make for some wonderful little ‘in-jokes’ almost.
Of course, there were a few things I had to question – for example Samantha becomes coxswain of a Cambridge college rowing team, and I’m pretty sure you’d have to be a member of the college for that. And the ease at which items from the British Museum were borrowed. But these all made for some fun adventures, so are really just me nit-picking!
There may also be an issue with terminology, as Jacobs tends to use the proper archaeological terminology which may confuse those not familiar with it, although it was hard to judge as someone who is familiar – so it would be interesting to see a review from someone who doesn’t know anything about archaeology.
I’ve always been fascinated by the early history of Britain (as you can probably guess by my degree choice), and wrote a paper on Boudicca’s rebellion in my second year, so this was a subject close to my heart. Combine that with archaeologists and you pretty much get my perfect story. Overall, a fantastically fun adventure, that should appeal to anyone with an interest in archaeology or history, regardless of age!