The Altar of Bones by Philip Carter — 9781439199084 — ****
Time to Read: About one week
Publication Date: 8 March 2011
The Altar of Bones by Philip Carter is a story about a legend passed down through time. The Altar is said to be a fountain of youth that has been guarded by women of the same family for generations. The quest for the altar and its promise of unending youth has been the obsession of many. It has caused betrayal, heartbreak, assassination and conspiracy almost from the beginning. Now, a young woman has discovered that her bloodline flows from the generations of keepers of the Altar of Bones, and her estranged grandmother has tasked her with protecting it from covetous hands. Her quest takes her from America to Paris, then on to Budapest and beyond, running from the Russian mob, the KGB and an American “kingmaker,” all of whom covet the secret that she has been charged with keeping.
First off, I have to say that this is an amazing book! I must admit that it took a little while for me to really get into it, because it jumps around a bit in the beginning, from the present day to the 1930s and back again, changing characters and generations before seeming to settle on one character, then jumping again and finally introducing the main character. Once I got passed that point, however, I really got caught up in the story.
The Altar of Bones by Philip Carter is one of those books that are very difficult to put down. It is chalk-full of adventure and excitement. Car chases, gun battles, spies and betrayals. There is a crazy but beautiful female assassin (who somewhat reminded me of Xenia Onatopp from the James Bond movie GoldenEye), a greedy old mogul who has been declared an American Kingmaker, an assassination cover-up, and a race to find this fountain of youth in order to protect it from the Russian mob, the KGB, and other covetous hands. It also takes a few pages out of history, providing flashbacks to a presidential assassination, the tragic end of a doomed movie starlet, and a harrying escape from a Russian labor camp.
The two main characters are easy to admire. The friendship between them develops naturally throughout the story, instead of being forced upon them, and while they are both slightly “super” human, they aren’t so over-the-top that they seem fake. The “bad guys” have enough human traits to be realistic antagonists, instead of just purely evil villains. The magic behind the story feels like folklore, which I find gives it more believability than your typical magical sub-plot. When added together, this makes the entire story easy to get lost in, and to believe, at least on some level.
I would recommend this book to any fans of the genre. It is exciting, rock ‘em sock ‘em at its very best. There were a few points where I, as a woman, said to myself: “This is clearly written by a male author,” which isn’t something I generally run across (sometimes I find that a book is clearly written by a female, but generally books feel gender-neutral to me when written by either men or women), and some female readers may not enjoy this one, especially if they select it to give the genre a try for the very first time. Over all, however, Philip Carter’s The Alter of Bones is an exciting, mile-a-minute page turner that any action fan is bound to enjoy.
(I should note that this review is based on a proof copy of the book. It will be on store shelves on March 8, 2011. This is Philip Carter’s first novel, so I cannot refer you to any of his other works while you wait, but please add it to your list for the spring and keep on reading!)
Check out Philip Carter’s author site at Simon & Schuster!
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