Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Gary Furlong
Length: 11 hours, 14 minutes
Rafe Lancaster and Ned Winter have grown incredibly close, and Rafe is happy and content running his coffee house and spending time with Ned when his responsibilities as Gallowglass First Heir allow it. As for Rafe, he has little interest in his own House and would be just as happy if he didn’t have to deal with the Stravaigors at all. The only sour note for Rafe is that Ned’s annual expedition to Egypt is coming soon and that means months apart. Rafe knows how much Ned loves archeology and how much he thrives on these trips, so he wants him to go, but being separated so long will be hard on both of them.
When circumstances leave Ned’s trip in need of a pilot, Rafe ends up being invited along to fly the group. This will be a wonderful chance for the men to spend time together away from the watchful eye of the Houses and the responsibilities both men have to them. It is also a chance for Rafe to see Ned in his element and for Ned to share this world he loves so much with Rafe. Cairo, the pyramids, and the ancient cities are just fascinating to Rafe. And while the endless digging and photographing of pot shards may be more work than Rafe would prefer, he also enjoys the chance to experience the excavation along with Ned.
Unfortunately, a series of troublesome events begin to occur on the dig. At first, the men can chalk it up to coincidence or even superstition among the locals. But soon it becomes clear that there is someone in their midst trying to cause problems on the dig and in the local community. The locals believe is it the work of Anubis, the jackal-like god of death. And while Rafe and Ned believe it is something much more human at work, the problems are still serious enough to be a threat. When the danger escalates and lives are on the line, Rafe needs to do all he can to help stop those behind the trouble, before it is too late.
The Jackal’s House is the second book in Anna Butler’s Lancaster’s Luck series and a really enjoyable follow-up to The Gilded Scarab. Butler moves the action to Egypt, which I think is a great way to set up some different adventures for the men, as well as to give us more of a look into Ned the archeologist, versus Ned the First Heir. Although much of this series is an alternate world, with the Houses and the steampunk elements, there is still an interesting sense of real world history here as the men explore Cairo and the surrounding towns. I also really enjoyed the details about the dig and their understanding at that time period of the artifacts and culture they were uncovering. I’ll note that while Ned is careful to document all his work and follow all Egyptian protocols, and is particularly concerned about these important historical relics not falling into the hands of rich tourists, there is still very much a colonial point of view in that the relics are all headed to England or other countries, given the time period of the story. I really enjoyed the shift of setting and think Butler gives a lot of great details to bring it all to life.
The move to Egypt also lets the men relax a little, both in terms of having their personal relationship out of the public eye, and also allowing Ned to live as a man rather than a First Heir. That is not to say they don’t have guards everywhere they go, but Ned is able to breathe a little. We see him so much in his element here and Rafe loves watching him enjoy his passion, rather than his duties to his House. The men get more private time, as they are so isolated, and the relationship makes nice forward progress. It is clear that the men are committed to one another and are building something strong, even as they must keep their feelings for one another hidden. Ned also has his young son, Harry, on the trip. While at first, Harry and Rafe don’t know quite what to make of each other, by the end we see a nice bond forming between them (and a softer side of Rafe).
The story also gives us some excitement, as we slowly see this series of what appear to be unrelated events start to coalesce into something serious. The action doesn’t really pick up until most of the way through the book, but it does get quite exciting and things pull together really well with the action.
I once again listened to this in audio with narrator Gary Furlong. There is a large cast of characters here and I think Furlong handles them very well. He is such an expressive narrator and brings the story to life nicely. The tone and pacing are good and the audio is enjoyable. My only issue is one I had with the first book, and that is the portrayal of Rafe doesn’t always fully work for me. I think, at times, the tone Furlong takes with Rafe pushes him from a little witty and sharp into somewhat arrogant and stuffy. I think this is in large part the way the character is written, but I think the narration pushes it just a little further. But overall, I am finding the audio really entertaining and am enjoying this series a lot. I have the third audio ready to go and I am eager to see how the story concludes.