The Good Shabti is a story that spans thousands of years. In ancient Egypt, Pharaoh Mentuhotep is on his deathbed; in the present, a team of scientists are setting out on the final stages of their experiment to revive an ancient mummy.

Anyone who’s ever watched a mummy film, old or new, will know that this doesn’t bode well. Reanimated mummies always wreak havoc when they are brought back to life, seeking revenge or reinstatement of their powers; either way, it’s never good. Still, I’m quite partial to a good mummy tale, so Robert Sharp’s novella piqued my interest, making me wonder if he could breathe life into a creature that suffers far too often from cliché.

At first, I found the present tense of the narrative slightly jarring, and wondered if it would have been better to have the Pharaoh’s time written in past tense, to differentiate between the two timelines. I was to be proved wrong, as it gives both times a sense of immediacy, breathing life into all the characters. It never feels as if the Egyptian story is a simple history, but rather a tale being told in conjunction with that of the scientists operating in the present day. It also means that no timeline takes preference over the other, both woven into one another with great skill; their lengths vary, but appropriately so, ensuring that the pages kept turning until I was at the end.

As I proceeded, the writer in me guessed the twist in the tale. This didn’t spoil the story, but filled me with anticipation that increased the suspense and, although proved right, I wasn’t disappointed because I was too busy enjoying myself. Robert Sharp’s writing hooked me from the first sentence and didn’t let go until the very end, entertaining me from start to finish. I couldn’t put the book down, and devoured it with glee in a single sitting.

I have to admit, although the story ends at exactly the right time, never outstaying its welcome, I was disappointed. Not in a bad way, but because I wanted more. It’s for this reason that it’s taken me a few days after reading to write this review. Has the author missed out by not using the events of The Good Shabti to form the core of a bigger story, I wondered? Now that I’ve had time to think about it, the answer is a definite no. Robert Sharp uses each word wisely; any more would have been excessive padding, the ending would not have felt as punchy.

As it is, The Good Shabti works wonderfully. Several days later, and my excitement for this story still hasn’t abated. The past is equally as alive as the present, two worlds inhabited by characters that are vividly brought to life in few words. It’ll leave you wanting more – that’s the nature of a novella – but it also ensures that no word is wasted, making this the ideal story for its length. Exciting and enthralling, I’m sure The Good Shabti will give Robert Sharp the wider audience he deserves. It’s his first foray into fiction longer than the short-story form, and I’m looking forward to seeing much more of his talent in the future.


By Alister Davison

Alister rediscovered fantasy a few years ago when he was handed an old David Gemmell novel and remembered everything he loved about the genre. He's been stringing words together since he can remember, and - inspired by the likes of Scott Lynch and Joe Abecrombie - he set out to write a fantasy of his own. That story has expanded to a trilogy, part one of which is now setting out on the noble quest for representation. If not writing, reading or reviewing, Alister is probably watching TV while wondering what to read next.

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