Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Mummy by Barbara Steiner

This is a lot like if the CW decided to do a hot take on The Mummy. Lana is a young teenage girl obsessed with Egypt. She lives in Colorado, which has just gotten an Egyptian exhibit on lease at the Boulder Natural History Museum, where she works as a volunteer. It seems like a match made in heaven... except the mummy they have as the focal piece is part of a sad Romeo and Juliet-esque story. Prince Nefra and Princess Urbena, both dying before they could be married...

Then strange things start happening. Lana hears voices. Lights go on and off. She receives strange notes and scorpions in her bed. Nefra demands the return of his princess to break an unspecified "curse." And that princess might just be Lana, who looks just like Urbena with her trendy Egyptian haircut and exotic beauty. GASP!

I bet you didn't see that coming.

As part of my most recent reviewing project, I'm tackling the YA pulp horror/thriller novels that were so popular in the 80s and 90s. Some of the authors are old favorites I'm revisiting, but there's been a couple that are new to me. The only book I ever read by Steiner was called DREAMSTALKER, which I liked enough that I remembered the title of it twenty years later. I was curious to see what her other books were like, because I remember reading DREAMSTALKER as a kid, breathless with anticipation and chills.

THE MUMMY almost has an L.J. Smith vibe to it. There's paranormal elements and a strong, plucky, and yes, of course, beautiful heroine as the focal point, and a ton of attractive boys work at the museum, vying for Lana's attention. L.J. Smith's books were also like this, notably the Vampire Diaries, which had not one, but two, potential love interests for the beautiful and tragically doomed heroine. Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine are perhaps the most popular authors from this age of teen horror fiction, but I liked a lot of the women authors the best-- they tended to inject Gothic melodrama and doomed romance into their books, probably because they grew up reading bodice-rippers and Victoria Holt, and wanted to instill that same breathless thrill into their own writing.

Well, I love Gothic novels and bodice-rippers, too, and I must say that Steiner does a great job capturing everything that made those types of books fun and adapting it for a younger audience. Anyone who enjoys L.J. Smith is probably going to enjoy this book, especially if you also like that cheesy-so-bad-it's-good movie, The Mummy.

I can't wait to pick up more of these.

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

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