The Obsidian Mask by Caroline Ludovici

By Ekta R. Garg

August 29, 2012

Rated: Borrow it

The teenage children of an archaeologist join her on a dig in Medinabad in the Middle East, and before they know it the visitors get involved in everything from legends to kidnapping and some unexpected news.  Author Caroline Ludovici offers readers The Obsidian Mask, the first in a trilogy for young adults that highlights the adventures one can have when chasing history.

Natasha and Alex fly to the Middle East from London during a school vacation.  Happy to get away from their father and his new girlfriend, the teens get a chance to spend some time with their mother, Julia.  While Natasha and Alex have made peace with their parents’ divorce, they still miss their mother’s presence in their daily lives and look forward to being with her.  Their trip starts with a heart-stopping car holdup on the drive to the camp where Julia’s job as an epigrapher keeps her busy: she’s responsible for recording and drawing the new archaeological finds.  But Julia, Natasha, and Alex doubt they’ll even make it to camp when two men stop their vehicle and order them to get out.

The small family watches as the two men thoroughly search the children’s luggage and the jeep, but when they don’t find whatever they want they let everyone go.  Julia tries to reassure Natasha and Alex that the almost-carjacking surely will be the only excitement they’ll find in the camp.  Despite the initial shock and fear the event causes, eventually the teens settle down and turn to the purpose of the dig: finding evidence of the ancient Queen Sorrea of the old city, Ashook.  The greatest find toward this claim comes in the form of a tomb that, among other treasures, holds a mask made of a rare volcanic glass called obsidian and set with precious gems and stones.

In camp Julia introduces the teens to Lorenzo and Gabriella, the children of one of Julia’s colleagues.  The four become a group and begin poking around the camp and the dig, but neither they nor anyone else realize that close at hand are certain people who would just as soon get their hands on the mask—and anything else valuable—for personal gain.

Author Ludovici gives young adult readers an exciting departure in The Obisidan Mask from the current trends of vampires and dystopian fare.  She uses her own background as a British native to provide authenticity to Natasha and Alex’s way of life, and American readers will be charmed by the British touch to the dialogue and narrative.  It’s not clear from promotional materials whether Ludovici has ever spent time on the type of dig she describes, but she manages to offer it to readers with enough details to make archaeology sound exciting despite the abundance of digital media available to young people today.

The climax comes to a resolution a little too quickly, and readers might finish the book wondering whether the quick ending was an intentional misdirection on Ludovici’s part to prepare readers for the return of some of these characters later in the trilogy of which The Obsidian Mask is the first novel.  Readers will nonetheless enjoy The Obsidian Mask.  I recommend this book for fans of contemporary YA fiction and also recommends readers keep an eye out for the rest of this trilogy.


What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

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