The Sleeper in the Sands (1998): Tom Holland

★★★½

Tom Holland is nowadays best known as a historian and translator of Herodotus, but he started his career, back in the 1990s, as a novelist, favouring eerie, rather supernatural historical themes. The Sleeper in the Sands ticks all those boxes with aplomb, as it tells the story of the ambitious archaeologist Howard Carter, who is on the brink of making the most fabulous discovery of his career. As he waits for the arrival of his patron Lord Carnarvon, Carter finds himself brooding on what he can expect to find behind the sealed doorway of this unprecedentedly undisturbed tomb. Great treasures, certainly, but also dark whispers of something else. For strange papers have come into Carter’s possession, warning him of a terrible curse and recording a story that has been lost to the sands for millennia: the tale of the heretic Pharaoh Akh-en-Aten…

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Millennium (2008): Tom Holland

★★★★

The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom

My goodness, it’s been a busy couple of weeks. Now at last the winter frenzy of work has been wrapped up; and today I experienced that most blissful of feelings: clearing my desk, closing down my computer and leaving the office for Christmas. No doubt the holidays will fly by very quickly, but I hope to spend a good proportion of them curled up with a good book. Luckily I have more than enough of those to choose from (though one of the novels on my to-read list is the kind of thing you might be rather surprised to see here; but more of that soon). For the last week or so, however, I’ve been kept occupied by a gripping, dense and rather enjoyable history book – a sweeping panorama of Europe in the two centuries which straddled the end of the first millennium.

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