My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Now we are TALKING.
He Shall Thunder in the Sky is perhaps my absolute favorite of the entire Amelia Peabody series–and as I’ve indicated in my reviews of several of the earlier books, it’s got some very strong contenders for my affections. It won’t have nearly as much meaning if you don’t read the series through from the beginning, but for readers who do, there is a great deal of reward to be had. There’s not only the culmination of the love story of Ramses and Nefret, there’s also the culmination of Ramses as a mature character and the equal of his parents, and a Big Reveal about the background of Sethos, the Master Criminal.
The book’s not a hundred percent perfect; I’ve got logistical quibbles with the Sethos part of the arc, for example. Odious cousin Percy, while credibly showing his true odious colors, is nonetheless not nearly as effective a villain as he should have been. Plus, I have a few “wait, what?” moments in regards to how Thunder ties back in with events in The Falcon at the Portal–specifically in revealing certain activities of Ramses’ and Nefret’s. I can’t say too much about that part since I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, but suffice to say that the details in question seemed a touch too melodramatic for even the Amelia Peabodies, which are at their height gems of melodrama! Ditto for the Big Reveal about Sethos.
But. I wave aside what quibbles I have with the story on the grounds of the sheer awesomeness that is Ramses in this book. He’s making a big noisy name for himself in Cairo as an avowed pacifist, refusing to participate in the ongoing bloody conflicts of World War I, and it’s getting him blackballed by everyone in Cairo society. It’s all a front, of course–because if you’ve been following the series up to this point, you know that Ramses has a stellar talent for disguise. So does the British government by this point in the series, and they’re making use of Ramses by having him do intelligence work. David’s in on it too, as the two friends put their lives on the line infiltrating a local cell of Egyptian nationalists so that Ramses can impersonate their leader. Not even his own parents know what’s going on, and once they realize the danger their son is putting himself in, they must do everything in their power to assist him. And to keep Nefret from finding out.
This being an Amelia Peabody, there is of course the obligatory preternaturally intelligent cat. This time around it’s Seshat, who’s a rival for her ancestress Bastet in how devoted she is to Ramses; he in turn is finally willing to acknowledge the potential awesomeness of other cats in the world. And of course we have the point of view shifting back and forth between Amelia and Ramses, which (aside from one weird choice of scene order at an early critical juncture) is wonderful stuff. Amelia’s relationship with her adult son is much different than her relationship with him as a boy, and one tender scene in particular they have is particularly aww-inducing.
Action scenes with Ramses here are among Peters’ most tense in any of her work, particularly at the end of the story. And, melodrama aside, the big climactic rescue scene in Thunder stands out for me as one of the most memorable of any of her books.
All in all, five stars.