Alex Archer,
Rogue Angel #2:
Solomon's Jar

(Gold Eagle, 2006)

In Rogue Angel: Destiny, we met Annja Creed, a beautiful young woman and archaeologist who has trouble making a living at archaeology. She makes do by working for a tabloid-type television program called Chasing History's Monsters, traveling around the world, exploring sensational stories from the past and trying to squeeze in some serious archaeological work along the way. Annja stumbled upon two possibly immortal French knights, Roux and Garvin, who are connected to the search for the remnants of Joan of Arc's shattered sword. When Annja finds the last piece, the sword becomes whole and hers, endowing her with enhanced senses and skills.

Now, in Solomon's Jar, Annja's archaeological studies lead her to believe there is an effort afoot to find the jar used by King Solomon to bind and hold demons, whom Solomon then used to help him build his great temple. The jar, while unlikely to still hold demons, is a powerful artifact in and of itself, and it is sought by a group of Russian mercenaries, a back-to-Nature extremist cult from England and a charismatic televangelist-turned-cult-leader. The televangelist wants to use it to build his cult into an empire, the British cultists want to use it to kill off most of humanity and thereby return the Earth to Mother Nature, and the Russian mercenaries are out to secure it for a wealthy collector, the identity of whom surprised me.

As Annja searches for the jar -- on a trek that starts and ends in South America, with side-trips to the Netherlands and Israel -- she keeps finding scenes of horrible, recent bloodshed. The closer she gets to the jar, the more danger she encounters, and she has to fend off numerous attempts to kill her, including one by a very tall, blond supermodel! Along the way, Annja manages to find two allies, besides an abundance of enemies. Aidan Pascoe is a British archaeologist and a possible love interest for Annja. Tsipporah is a believer in Kabbalah, who is a cornucopia of wise advice and insight.

Will Annja survive? Who will find the jar first? Are the demons still inside? Is the jar a source of power, demons or not? Who is behind the Russian mercenaries? All of these questions are answered, with a few surprises involved.

This is a very good action-adventure novel, with supernatural and religious components. The character of Annja Creed continues to develop, as she tries to figure out her role, now that she has Joan of Arc's sword. I was disappointed that Roux and Garvin have very small roles in this story, but there are still plenty of interesting supporting characters.

I did notice a change in the writing style, with two aspects being most pronounced. First, the fight scenes are so rapid and chaotic it was hard for me to follow them. On several occasions, a character in a fight was suddenly standing when I was sure he or she had just been knocked down. The bigger change, though, was the presence of many sentence fragments. Instead of creating valid compound-complex sentences, Archer breaks the sentence into pieces, some of which were phrases or clauses. Not full sentences. Very fragmented. Disrupting the flow of the reading. (Yes, that's what I mean.)

Despite these flaws, this is a rousing adventure tale, with a plot full of twists, lots of action and many interesting characters. It was definitely an enjoyable reading experience.

by Chris McCallister
17 March 2007

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