Monday 20 June 2011

Review: Empire of Gold by Andy McDermott (Nina Wilde/Eddie Chase Book 7)

When archaeologist Nina Wilde and her husband, ex-SAS soldier Eddie Chase, are given the chance to work on an Interpol investigation into smuggled artefacts, they are stunned to realise that the artefacts hold clues to the location of a lost Inca settlement hidden somewhere in South America.

As Nina and Eddie dig deeper, it soon becomes clear that finding the settlement may only be the start of their incredible quest. One which, astonishingly, may lead them to one of the greatest legends of all time: El Dorado - the mythical city of gold.

Nina and Eddie are desperate to locate the fabled city. But they are not alone in their search. Deep in the jungles of Venezuela, they face corrupt soldiers, murderous revolutionaries and ruthless drug lords who will stop at nothing to obtain the city's treasures. With so much at stake, what price will they pay for the greatest of fortunes?

Contrary to popular belief, not everything I read these days is targeted at younger readers. Every now and again I feel the need to read something a little more adult, although the number of books I receive to review means that this does not always happen as often as I like. When I do get that hunger there are several genres of book that I turn to depending on my mood, and one of my favourites is what I loosely refer to as "quest stories". At this point I should admit that yes, I loved The Da Vinci Code, although I much prefer Angels and Demons (despite its ridiculous moments), but was very disappointed with The Lost Symbol. Since the global success of The Da Vinci Code there have been many, many books published of a similar nature, some of them brilliant, and some of them making me wonder how they ever got published in the first place. Of these, for me a small handful of authors stand out as personal favourites, with Scott Mariani's Ben Hope books and Andy McDermott's Nina Wilde/Eddie Chase series definitely up there at the top.

Empire of Gold is the seventh book in Andy's very popular series, but before I go any further I should make two things very clear: you really should start by reading the first book (The Hunt For Atlantis) and then, if you like it, read the rest of the series in order; and secondly, these books are most definitely written for the adult market, although I really, really wish books like this had been around when I was in my mid teens. If you are new to my blog then yes, I do occasionally review books written for the adult market on The Book Zone, as my experience at school has shown that a large number of confident male readers abandon the kids and YA targeted books soon after they enter their teens, and turn instead to books like this. However, I always want my readers to be fully informed about the books I review, and so should point out that these books are pretty violent, there is at least one swear word on pretty much every page, and they also contain the occasional "sexy scene" (adults who remember the ever-patronising Simon Bates and his film certification explanations on VHS tapes back in the late 80s will no doubt be chuckling now). Like I said.... I wish I could have had books like this when I was a teenager!

Like many of the books in this genre, Andy McDermott's work could never be described as literary fiction, but if they were they would definitely be nowhere near as much fun, and I probably wouldn't get much past the first few chapters. I read these books because they are pure escapist entertainment. They are books that help me forget the stresses of my job, even if only for an hour at a time, and I feel my mental health is all the better for reading them. A fairly dramatic statement maybe, but it's the truth.

Andy McDermott's series follows the adventure-filled life of archaeologist Nina Wilde and her former bodyguard and now husband, Eddie Chase. I won't focus for too long on their history together in the series for fear of creating spoilers, but their married life is far from a smooth one. I know of at least one reader (a friend of mine) who has over the course of the series become a little fed up with the constant bickering between the couple (and she thinks there are just a few too many swear words in the stories as well), and I have to admit that sometimes I have found myself wanting to shout at the pair to get things sorted. However, the strong bond between them that has been forged in some of the most extreme moments of danger always seems to prevail in the end.

Empire of Gold is definitely one of my favourite in the series so far. As usual, the promise of an incredible archaeological discovery (in this case El Dorado) sees the pair jetting off around the world, pursued by mercenaries in the employ of the greedy and the corrupt. As with all of the previous books in the series the action scenes, of which there are many, are without exception exhilarating affairs that will have your heart pounding with nervous excitement, and have you mentally taking bets on just how the pair are going to survive this time? Writing scenes like this are one of the author's greatest strengths, somehow managing to keep these scenes seeming as fresh as the first, and at no point did I feel that the author was recycling scenes from previous books.

If you struggle to suspend your disbelief then these books probably are not for you. If, however, you have a thirst for hi-octane adventure stories, full of loveable goodies and detestable baddies, then Empire of Gold and its predecessors are just for you, whether you are 15 or 95, or anywhere in between. I read Empire of Gold during my recent flight to New York, having been told at check-in that the entertainment system on the plane was broken. I am not sure I would have read an in-flight movie if one had been available as within minutes of take-off I was engrossed in the story and it certainly made the journey seem a lot shorter than it was. However, I was then left silently screaming by nailbiting cliffhanger that Andy McDermott leaves his readers with at the end and I now can't wait for the release of Temple of the Gods in November! My thanks go to the generous people at Headline for sending me a copy of Empire of Gold.


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