Living in ancient Egypt around 2530 B.C.E., 10-year-old Kepi inhabits a world very aware of the presence and power of gods and spirits. Her father is wounded while helping build a pyramid for the cruel Pharaoh Khufu, putting their family under financial stress. While collecting fruit Kepi is duped and kidnapped, along with her pet baboon, Babu, by a man who wants to travel north to the capital city of Ineb Hedj and sell Babu to the pharaoh. Strong-willed and wily, Kepi refuses to be separated from Babu during the turbulent journey, praying to the gods for protection and forming her own agenda: to confront the pharaoh about his neglect of his people. Napoli (The Wager) crafts a mystical coming-of-age tale and a love letter of sorts to Egypt, saturated with proverbs, intriguing details of everyday life at the time, and rich descriptions of the places Kepi visits (“The mornings were all misty green, as though someone had woven the finest cloth of fresh leaves and draped it over the world”). Kepi’s survival skills and perspective are challenged in this absorbing adventure. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)
VOYA - Dianna Geers
In Ancient Egypt, Kepi's life changed when her father was injured while building pyramids for the pharaoh. She and her family adjust to the changes in their lifestyle, but when Kepi is out with her pet baby baboon, she is kidnapped. Praying to the various ancient gods, Kepi must rely on their help and her own skills to escape many situations, get her baboon back, and find her way home. When Kepi decides she must first talk to the pharaoh and let him know that he needs to take care of those injured while working on his pyramids rather than leaving them disabled without hope, it only adds to her challenges. Kepi must decide who to trust, what to fight for, and what is really important. Lights on the Nile is well researched, with historical accuracy to a very specific time period in ancient Egypt: the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom in Ancient Egypt around 2530 B.C.E. Napoli explains the intricacies from that time period at the end of the book in addition to providing a glossary. Readers may soon forget they are reading historical fiction as Kepi, the protagonist, deals with the many obstacles that come her way. This book would be a great companion for ancient Egyptian studies and a great read for historical fiction fans, ancient Egyptian mythology buffs, and those searching for strong female protagonists. Reviewer: Dianna Geers
Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
Kepi and her family live in a small village near a not-so-large town on the Nile several days south of the great cities in the north. Kepi's father has been severely injured while working on the pyramid for current Pharaoh, Khufu, and so Kepi, her mother, and her sister Nanu must work especially hard to make ends meet. Kepi is determined to find a way to redress the wrong done to her father and all the others injured in these building projects by talking to the Pharaoh. She gets the chance sooner than expected when she and her pet baby baboon, Babu, are kidnapped and taken north by thieves who want to sell Babu to the priests for temple service. Kepi endures many hardships but maintains her faith in the gods who seem to speak to her and engineer events around her. Newly acquired friends help Kepi find Babu in the Pharaoh's preferred temple, and they hide inside so she can talk to Khufu, but she learns he is as heartless as stories claim. However, the gods offer Kepi and her friends an alternative that would allow them to help others, namely to become fairiespoints of lightwith the power of foresight. An author's note shares Napoli's inspiration for this tale, and a 5-page historical summary follows which describes the time period covered in the story, the sources of dialogue, relevant tales of Egyptian gods and goddesses, and descriptions of setting. Finally, a glossary deciphers both terminology and names. This book offers principled and engaging characters that can inspire discussion about history, social class, justice and family responsibility. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 4–8—Kepi is a spirited young ancient Egyptian girl with a powerful connection to animals, from the click beetle she discovers in her family's fields to the baby baboon she finds and raises. When some boys try to steal Babu, Kepi runs far from home in pursuit of her pet and falls prey to Menes, a man whose motives for helping her are unsettlingly ambiguous. Menes drugs her with poppy seedpods and transports her up the Nile to be a baboon trainer in a temple in Ineb Hedj, the capital of Egypt. Kepi's adventures make for fascinating reading, and Napoli smoothly integrates details about the landscape, political structure, religion, and daily life. Readers' hearts will be in their mouths as Kepi survives a sandstorm, reaches the capital, is forced into servitude, and confronts the Pharoah himself. That's where the story begins to feel as if it's barreling toward a too-hasty conclusion. And when Kepi and her new friends are transformed into feri, it seems mostly as if this sketchy explanation of the origin of fairies is Napoli's device to get Kepi back home.—Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY
Kepi's name means "tempest," and it suits, in this tale that purports to reveal the origins of fairies.
In 2530 B.C.E. Egypt, as the young daughter of a miller, her impetuousness lands her and her pet baboon captive on a boat sailing north on the Nile. As the journey progresses, plans to escape her kidnapper evolve into a quest to speak to the Pharaoh in the capital city, Ineb Hedj, to complain about his unfairness to his people. Kepi's spiritedness only seems to grow as she gets farther from her family, and the narrative progression may strike readers as unusual as her character only intensifies, rather than showing signs of change.The final, brief climax fulfills the arc—or rather, arrow—as Kepi and the companions she's gathered are transformed by the goddess Hathor into the world's first fairies.Napoli's text is full of detail of setting and culture that should enthrall young fans of historical fiction, though its resolution may leave them confounded. Conversely, readers who come to the story expecting fairy fantasy will be disappointed.
Nevertheless, the story offers rich fare for those precocious younger readers who can't get enough; with luck they will accommodate any confusion and may move onto some of Napoli's more polished works, a little later on.(author's note, glossary) (Historical fantasy. 8-11)