Review: Asp of Ascension: A Nefertari Hughes Mystery by BR Myers
Source: Galley courtesy of Fierce Ink Press. Thank you!
Expected publication: July 21, 2015 by Fierce Ink Press
Verdict: Very Good
Nefertari “Terry” Hughes has three rules for surviving high school:
#1 Don’t attract attention.
#2 Don’t get involved.
#3 Don’t make trouble.
A year after the accident that left her disabled and took her mother’s life, sixteen-year-old Terry just wants to keep her head down and survive her new high school. When she catches the eye of cute basketball star Zach, all hopes of flying under the radar are gone.
She is thrust even further into the spotlight when Fraser, the editor of the school newspaper, learns her father Mr. Hughes is the renowned archaeologist overseeing the new Egyptian display at the museum, which is rumored to include Cleopatra’s sarcophagus. When Fraser stumbles upon the fifty-year-old mystery of a girl who vanished in the museum and Terry’s father falls into a mysterious coma, Terry’s caught up in a whirlwind of events that leads all the way back to ancient times.
Before long, the stakes become too high for Terry to ignore. Tossing aside her rules for survival, she teams up with Fraser and her candy-loving new friend Maude to solve the mystery and save her father — before she loses everything.
There is something very comforting about curling up with a good and winding mystery novel, isn’t there? During my reading of Asp of Ascension, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the mysteries I read growing up and that great experience of reading those mysteries: sitting down with Encyclopedia Brown, or Nancy Drew, or the Hardy Boys, a new Lois Duncan or a new Caroline B. Cooney…putting pieces together, trying to stay one step ahead and solve the mystery…
Terry Hughes, our protagonist, is an intriguing teen heroine/sleuth to follow. She’s not brash like Veronica Mars, and her drive for solving mysteries is not innate. Terry can come across as cold indifferent, but as we learn, her personal history packs serious heartache and emotional damage. As Myers has written the novel in third person- which is not so common for YA- I found the trek of getting to know Terry (along with the major secondary characters like classmates Maude, Fraser and Zach) a slower process but a rewarding one. I think Myers excelled at portraying Terry as an uncomfortable and grieving teen, thrown into situations she doesn’t want to be in, but so strong in making a go of everything. Terry’s friendship with classmate Maude (amazing character), in particular, is done so well; a supportive and warm friendship that is genuine to its core.
Though Asp of Ascension has multiple arcs carrying on at once, Myers pulls it off very well. Without giving away spoilers here, I will say that a few smaller ingredients of the larger mystery felt a bit rushed and thus certain secondary characters read as too easily one dimensional. However, the major mystery surrounding the possible sarcophagus of Cleopatra and her missing asp is layered, well-paced and interestingly tied in with a decades old mystery surrounding a local missing girl. My one tiny quibble with the story’s major arc is that I don’t think the slightly supernatural elements introduced were necessarily needed (it does work, but the novel may have also worked just as well as a straightforward contemporary mystery!).
Overall, Asp of Ascension is an entertaining and engrossing young adult mystery. It will likely appeal to readers and fans of YA series such as Deadly Cool, Heist Society, The Liar Society, or authors such as Myra McEntire, Rosemary Clement-Moore and Mariah Fredericks. Furthermore, readers who enjoy Egyptian history, pharaohs, and novels that talk about the fascinating life of Cleopatra might also find themselves drawn to this title!