Review

The Rosetta Key

by William Dietrich

In
1799, Napoleon Bonaparte set forth to invade and conquer the Holy
Land following his successful conquest of Egypt the year before.
The difference in this attack is that Napoleon is set apart from
his own navy, which had gone down to defeat at the hands of the
British Commander, Admiral Nelson. Bonaparte gambled on the premise
that a relatively small group of dedicated fighters would be enough
to overthrow the Ottoman Empire. If successful in this endeavor,
Napoleon would have had the power to change the face of world
history and permanently affect the balance of power in the European
empire. He did not expect that an unlikely alliance of British,
Muslim and French royalists in the city of Acre were preparing to
make a stand to stop his siege. This event is the centerpiece of
THE ROSETTA KEY.

William Dietrich returns to the familiar genre of historical
fiction as the background of this engaging and fast-moving novel.
Even though THE ROSETTA KEY is a sequel to NAPOLEON’S
PYRAMIDS, it may be enjoyed as a stand-alone tale. The hero this
time is American adventurer Ethan Gage, who is sort of like a cross
between Indiana Jones and Jack Sparrow --- including all the
wisecracks and sarcasm. Gage finds himself torn in allegiance
between following Napoleon’s French forces and supporting the
British military that is opposing Bonaparte. 

The bottom line for Gage is that he is involved in this saga due to
his own pursuit of adventure and treasure --- and switches
allegiances so many times that you begin to lose count. In addition
to reclaiming his lost love, Astiza (who was taken from him at the
end of NAPOLEON’S PYRAMIDS), Gage is on the trail of the
ancient Book of Thoth – which may hold the key to
immortality. He is told of an ancient tale that involved the
infamous Knights Templar during the Crusades and how their pursuit
of the Holy Grail may have ended with their discovery of The Book
of Thoth. The story indicates that the Holy Grail has been
described as many different objects over time --- even an ancient
book. Following clues that he finds during his adventures through
the Holy Land, Gage learns that he is not alone in its pursuit.
Apparently, Napoleon has been made aware of the Book and the
promise of immortality and endless power it may bring to whoever
possesses it.

Gage and his small band of allies set off in pursuit of The Book of
Thoth --- which is actually a scroll said to have been stolen from
the Great Pyramid by Moses and carried by the Jews to their new
kingdom of Israel 3,000 years earlier. The American expatriate
discovers that finding the scroll isn’t the difficult part
--- it’s the interpretation of text written in a long-dead
language that provides the biggest hurdle. Gage is told of a
Rosetta Key that can be used as the template for interpreting this
ancient scroll. What’s more interesting in this tale is the
fact that the Rosetta Key is in the possession of Gage’s
small group of allies --- in an unexpected form.

Gage is a morally ambiguous protagonist who is a lot of fun to
follow. His ever-changing shifts in allegiance sometimes make it
difficult to tell who is a friend or foe --- but are never boring.
Once events unfold in THE ROSETTA KEY and the quest is determined,
it is a non-stop race to the finish as Gage attempts to get
“the key,” rescue Astiza and help the British allied
forces stop Bonaparte’s siege of Acre.  Complicating
matters is that Gage falls for Miriam, the sister of one of his
colleagues, early in the novel. This event provides Gage with
additional turmoil as to which love interest he will end up with
when the dust settles --- if either!

THE ROSETTA KEY is a well-researched historical adventure that will
appeal to readers of both historical nonfiction and some of
today’s top historical fiction writers, such as Dan Brown,
Steve Berry and James Rollins. This is the perfect summer novel as
it provides non-stop escapist thrills while describing a pivotal
event in world history. Not all of the questions and issues are
resolved by the end of the book, which indicates that Dietrich
hopefully will return to the adventurous Ethan Gage so we can
follow him through another tale and find out what happens
next.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on April 27, 2011

The Rosetta Key
by William Dietrich

  • Publication Date: April 1, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • ISBN-10: 0061239550
  • ISBN-13: 9780061239557