The tenth Amelia Peabody novel, The Ape Who Guards the Balance, opens with one of my very favorite scenes in the entire series: Amelia barging out to participate in a suffragette rally in London, ready, willing, and even eager to get herself arrested for the cause of women’s rights. Never mind how she winds up having an inadvertant run-in with Sethos who’s planning to rob the very residence she and her fellow suffragettes are targeting for their protest; no, what really sells this whole sequence for me is the note-perfect reactions Emerson and Ramses and their butler Gargery have to the entire situation, up to and including Ramses coming along to lend his support, and Emerson and Gargery asserting their disbelief that any constable in the city is worthy of the task of arresting Amelia P. Emerson.
Really, it’s an excellent start to a very strong novel in the series overall. It’s not entirely perfect, mind you. There are stretches where even a diehard fan like me finds it a bit hard going. Stick with it though–and for the love of Amon-Ra, if you’re new to the series, do not start with this one. The death of a character much beloved of the Emersons takes place in this installment, and you really need to have been following the series from the beginning to really appreciate its impact on the family. Especially upon Amelia, since this incident affects her personally all throughout the subsequent books.
Ramses starts coming into his own for me as a fully adult character with this book, too. He’s had plenty of time to be a full-fledged character, sure, but only as of this book does he really start feeling like a grownup to me. And by ‘grownup’, I mean, ‘swoonable hero’. It helps a lot that as of here, Peters has a better handle on how she wants to present the “Manuscript H” sections of the story. This in turn gives Ramses a much more consistent voice, and goes a long way to establishing him as a romantic hero to rival his father. Four stars.