Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Review: Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury

Agnes Wilkins is standing in front of an Egyptian mummy, about to make the first cut into the wrappings, about to unlock ancient (and not-so-ancient) history.
Maybe you think this girl is wearing a pith helmet with antique dust swirling around her.
Maybe you think she is a young Egyptologist who has arrived in Cairo on camelback.
Maybe she would like to think that too. Agnes Wilkins dreams of adventures that reach beyond the garden walls, but reality for a seventeen-year-old debutante in 1815 London does not allow for camels—or dust, even. No, Agnes can only see a mummy when she is wearing a new silk gown and standing on the verdant lawns of Lord Showalter’s estate, with chaperones fussing about and strolling sitar players straining to create an exotic “atmosphere” for the first party of the season. An unwrapping.
This is the start of it all, Agnes’s debut season, the pretty girl parade that offers only ever-shrinking options: home, husband, and high society. It’s also the start of something else, because the mummy Agnes unwraps isn’t just a mummy. It’s a host for a secret that could unravel a new destiny—unleashing mystery, an international intrigue, and possibly a curse in the bargain.
Get wrapped up in the adventure . . . but keep your wits about you, dear Agnes.

This book had so much potential, and seemed destined to never arrive, so by the time it did I suppose I had built it up into more than it could ever be in my head.
The cover is fabulous, the blurb divine, but the book never really lifts itself above the mundane.

My biggest gripe with the book was the lack of research that had gone into simple things about the period. Yes the author had certainly done her research on Napoleon and Egypt etc. but when it came to addressing people at parties? Not a chance. And little things like that should be second nature to someone writing a book set in Regency England. If you don’t do the research the whole thing becomes pointless.
So throughout the book people are addressed by their Christian names without formal introduction, social standing of maids seems to be virtually ignored, and no one ever seems capable of calling anyone else by the appropriate title. On several occasions it should be Lord so and so, or sir, rather than ‘Mr’ – and things like that aggravate me.

So that put me in a bad mood from the start.
Agnes was likeable, but a bit irritating. I understood why she didn’t tell her father, but it still seemed too ridiculous to bear. She seemed petty and irritating, and her constant translations into other languages more egotistical than a nervous habit.

The plot was again predictable, you could tell who the hero and the villains would be from the first few chapters, and everything in between was just a jumble of historical facts mushed together with some Egyptian myths. I wanted to love it, the blurb had me so excited, but in actuality I was quite bored by some of it. Yes the author may have researched some of these bits, but that doesn’t mean the reader necessarily knows all of it. So some of it felt unnecessary or not sufficiently explained, and as a result I lost interest.

However – and this is a big however, the last forty pages or so really pick up. The otherwise slow pace suddenly sweeps you up and takes you to the (rather inevitable) conclusion. I really loved that last section of book, and it made me want to see a sequel, to find out about the sort of adventures Agnes was going to go off and have. And yet, because of the slightly idiotic and yes very good at translations, but otherwise not particularly brilliant girl that Agnes was portrayed as throughout the rest of the book, the ending seemed particularly ridiculous.

If her character had been shown off in a better light, and if some of the sleuthing had come in the last forty odd pages I would have believed the ending, and would be demanding a sequel, no matter how dissatisfying the rest of the book had been.

As it is I feel let down, and quite irritated. This book was hard to get hold of in the UK, and I almost wish I’d waited instead of trying to get hold of it sooner. It’s alright if you’re not expecting high standards of historical accuracy of the period, or don’t want a ground breaking plot, but if you’re expecting more than light fluff I wouldn’t bother. Which is irritating, because often I love light fluff, and this falls short even of that.


  1. Well, I am really, really glad that I read this review because this book was one I was really looking forward to and then started hearing some really disturbing things about... all things which you have now absolutely corroborated! That was a near miss for me because the Regency manners thing would have made me throw. the. book. across. the. room. (Surely a writer who writes about this stuff has read in the genre...?) BAH! But your pain is my near-miss. ;) - Elle

  2. Ahaha, I love it! So glad I saved you the pain... Although I was less impressed at the time. I did very nearly throw the book across the room several times, because the manners were atrocious - and yes you would think that something so fundamental as that would have been thoroughly researched, although she did her egypt and napoleon research quite well. It may be one I send you at a later date (or even a sequel if it gets any better...) Because I would be interested to see what you make of it - and it saves you the money of getting it! (I was most peeved because it was far too expensive to get a copy and I swear it was cursed, it took a month and two different orders to arrive!)
    Anyway, glad I saved you the pain :P