So like most other bibliophiles, I am a niche reader.  If you look at my library on Chapters or GoodReads, 90% of it is fantasy.  But like most things you love, too much of it is never a good thing.  As a result, I got bored with fantasy and fell out of it and reading for a while.  Thankfully, this was about the time I got my current job working at my store. 😀

As a result, I was drastically exposed to a vast number of other genres, and I quickly fell into a few non-fantasy ones.

See, I tend to be a bit of a strange bird sometimes.  While most of my reading habits tend into high fantasy, I am also a bit of a history buff as well, despite the fact that you will never see me reading a history book outside of a classroom.  However there are two sub genres of fiction that I found really caught my eye: Historical fiction and archeological fiction.

Historical fiction is just that.  Historical.  They’re set in the past during some momentous historical event, and usually stars one historical figure or another.  And while the general timeline of certain events is kept true, the author has free play over character interactions with these events and each other.  My favorite historical author is Philippa Gregory.  It was her book The Other Boleyn Girl that inspired the movie of the same name.

Archeological fiction is a bit different.  It can almost be classified as low urban paranormal fantasy.  These books are set in modern times, featuring fictional characters (one at least an archeologist of some kind) chasing after an historical myth.  And usually they find it despite secret cabals of men and women intent on killing to keep their secrets or use the secrets to take over the world.  My favorite archeological fiction author is Andy McDermott.  He has a series that is seven books long and still going.

I’ve actually just started the seventh book in his saga, and since I don’t want to waste 90% of that review on back story, I’d figured I’d get it all out here.

So in the first book of the series, Hunt for Atlantis, we are introduced to a young archeologist Nina Wilde who is searching for -you guessed it- Atlantis.  Now this search is quite personal for her as both her parents were archeologists searching for Atlantis as well, and the secret organization that was protecting the location of the lost city killed them.  So this quest is two fold: prove her parents right, and avenge their deaths.

Nina is an admittedly weak character in many aspects.  She’s fairly young so she has a lot of naivety in the beginning, and while she does get some sense knocked into her as the series progresses, sometimes it doesn’t feel like she’s come far enough.  She’s young, smart, pretty, and also at times dangerously focused.  She becomes fixated on whatever she’s searching for and winds up zipping around the globe like a hummingbird on crack tracking down all these clues, stepping on all these official toes, and never once thinking about the cost of her actions until someone gets hurt.

She works for an organization called the International Heritage Agency (IHA) whose sole job it is to find and protect ancient relics like Atlantis.  Over the course of the series, Nina becomes the head of the organization through much tears, bloodshed, and the very satisfactory dispossessing of her spiteful rival.

Now 7 books in I can say this.  But in the beginning it was exciting to be swept along in Nina’s exuberance of a new archeological discovery and travel around the world with her.  And she does grow quite a bit through the first six books, to the point now her actions have cost her the life of a very dear friend in book six, and now I’m wondering what this loss will have done to her.  Will it calm her down and make her look at her actions before taking them, or will she continue on her pell-mell ways?

The other main character is an ex-SAS British man named Eddie Chase.  In book 1 he’s hired as her body guard, and I think we can all see where that leads.  Young, smart, pretty woman teamed up with a smart mouthed, street savvy, military tough guy who saves her life five times over?  Hello romance. By the end of book 1 no less.  Meh.  What can you do.  They actually make a really good team even if she does nag on him a bit.  They run through the whole relationship gambit, with a few quirks thrown in that only an action/drama oriented series could come up with.  They run into Eddie’s ex-wife-turned-terrorist on several occasions, Nina loses her job with the IHA for a brief period of time, she suspects Eddie of cheating on her at one point, and so one.  Pretty much every curve ball a relationship can have, they have so far experienced.

Not much to say about our dear bodyguard turned husband Eddie.  He’s born and bred British, with his own family problems that we’re only just now starting to unwind.  Estranged sister, loving niece, doting grandmother, a dead mum and deadbeat dad.  Lots of story here, but we only first got hints of it in book 5. He’s smart mouthed, quick on his feet, and he loves Nina with all his heart.  Even though he stopped being her bodyguard in book 2, every time they’re in danger he puts his life on the line to save her.  You don’t risk losing life and limb if it’s not love.

Now every book in this series (and to be fair every archeological fiction book I have ever read) has the same plot.  Nina gets wind of an ancient relic and goes hunting for it.  There’s a secret organization, often headed by a ego maniacal multi-billionaire or three, who do everything in their power to capture Nina and force her to lead them to the relic.  Along the way she gets free, gets captured, gets free again, then she either gets captured one last time and winds up leading the bad guys to the pot of gold (but not before brilliantly solving the location and telling Eddie so he can rescue her) or she and her team arrive at their destination one step ahead of them and they have to fight their way to freedom. They get home, safe and sound, and everyone lives happily ever after until the next relic needs to be discovered.

There’s also an interesting tie in with earth energy.  Apparently, there was something about the Atlantean biology that increased a person’s magnetic field, their earth energy.  We’re still not sure if it was something well known or wide spread that far back in the day, but several artifacts were created specifically to be used by those of Atlantean descent such as Excalibur.  In the hands of a normal person, Excalibur was a normal sword.  But in the hands of someone of Atlantean descent, like King Arthur or Nina Wilde, it became super sharp and could cut through anything.

So the fact that Nina is of Atlantean descent is something that’s kept very low key in the series, but always plays into the artifact they are chasing.  Maybe it’s only usable by someone of Atlantean descent and the secret cabal knows this and abducts Nina to use it.  Maybe it can be found only by using earth energy and again Nina gets kidnapped once again for it.  But either way, earth energy is the underlying factor behind almost every book so far.

Throw in a few explosions, gunfights, undercover work, and a personal story arch for Nina and maybe Eddie, and there you have it.  Now I know this may not sound very interesting to most people, but the books themselves are very well written and well paced.  Plus you actually learn stuff!  Gasp!  Reading and learning?  The nerve!

See, Any McDermott actually knows his stuff.  For the relics that have a basis in history, he does a lot of research into the relics that Nina and Eddie are chasing, but he doesn’t bog us down with so much information it feels like we’re back in high school.  I’ve learned more about the relics these two characters have chased then I would have learned in school because he peaks my interest in the subject and then I go off and do my own research.

To date these two have hunted down and successfully located the lost city of Atlantis, the tomb of Hercules, Excalibur, the Ark, the tomb of Osiris, and the vault of Shiva.  I think the vault of Shiva was something he came up with himself, but everything else they’ve found has some prior basis in mythology and from what I can tell are pretty well researched.

So while the series admittedly has its flaws, it’s still a good series.  Well written, well paced, and with interesting story lines.  Enjoy.

And for those interested, here‘s the complete reading list.