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Children's Fiction Ancient Civilizations

The Oracle of Avaris

by (author) Alisha Sevigny

Dundurn Press
Initial publish date
Jan 2022
Ancient Civilizations, General, Spies & Spying
Recommended Age
9 to 12
Recommended Grade
4 to 7
Recommended Reading age
9 to 12
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2022
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jan 2022
    List Price

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A search for answers from a mysterious Oracle has Sesha and her friends navigating intrigue and danger in this thrilling series finale.

Leaving the oasis, Sesha and her friends set sail for Avaris, intent on stopping the Hyksos chieftain from claiming the throne and declaring war on Thebes. On the journey, Sesha learns that she and the scroll are at the centre of a pair of prophecies made by a famed oracle — ones with staggering implications for both her and the Hyksos people.

But when the crew arrives in the bustling port city, they are stunned to discover the oracle is missing. With the prophecies now in doubt and their lives in danger, Sesha, Paser, and Reb must race to find a mysterious priestess sect and witness the third, and final, prophecy before the upcoming lunar eclipse.

As the young scribes seek answers, Sesha must untangle her past and future while keeping war from erupting in the present. For there is one person she cannot bear to face across the Hyksos battlefield: her brother.

Be sure to read Sesha’s earlier adventures, The Lost Scroll of the Physician and The Desert Prince.

About the author

Alisha Sevigny is an author of books for young readers and a literary consultant. She holds a degree in professional writing and sociology from the University of Victoria. Her books include the Secrets of the Sands historical adventure series and the young adult novels Summer Constellations, a CCBC Best Book for Teens, and Kissing Frogs. She currently lives in the Cayman Islands with her family.


Alisha Sevigny's profile page

Excerpt: The Oracle of Avaris (by (author) Alisha Sevigny)

Chapter 1

The knife whizzes through the air, missing my face by a cubit.

“Disarm him!” Reb hollers, the ship’s massive sail billowing behind him.

I duck, then dodge again, as the dagger slashes at my torso in an X attack.

“Light on those toes, Sesha.” Paser circles me, pointing the obsidian blade at my feet. “Envision yourself a temple dancer.”

“Your health seems much improved, Paser,” I pant, backing up toward the boat’s stern, eyeing the weapon in his hand.

“I had a great doctor.” He grins, then lunges again. I sidestep his arm, whirl to grip his elbow, then administer a couple swift jabs to break it — were I applying actual force — followed by a blow to the chest, sending him mock-sprawling to the freshly scrubbed deck.

“Better.” Paser flips back up, eyes lit by the setting sun. The thrill of the fight brings them into sharp focus; gold-flecked, a faint shimmer of green ringing the pupils. “Remember, your primary objective is to defang the snake.”

Hands on my hips and breathing hard, I lift a questioning brow, blood thrumming. “Defang the snake?”

“You must disable the hand with the weapon.” Paser demonstrates, brandishing the blade. There is strength there, as well as grace, a hand that wields a soldier’s tools as easily as a scribe’s. “If you are unarmed, your sole task is to make your opponent drop their knife.”

“Or you can run away,” Reb chimes in as he hoists himself up onto the ship’s ledge, feet dangling. Paser is helping us with our combat skills, though Reb is already quite proficient with the Hyksos’s excellent bow.

“True, but when you’re in an enclosed space, such as this” — Paser gestures at the impressive vessel we’re on, then hands me back my father’s blade — “you may have no choice but to defend yourself.”

I sheathe the dagger. “Speaking of defence, how do you think the people at the oasis are faring?”

“Min is there, and Pentu and Zina,” Paser names the healer, the beekeeper, and Reb’s friend who stayed behind to care for the recovering villagers. “They are in capable hands.”

“I am thinking more of the spy who escaped,” I say, guilt flaring. Pepi and I had not noticed the pair who’d followed us from Thebes when we went to get the scroll. “What if he leads Pharaoh to the oasis?”

“He won’t,” Paser reassures me. “Pepi said the chances of the spy making it back through the desert were slim.”

“I am more worried for us.” Reb lifts a hand to shield his eyes from the sunlight reflecting off the river’s surface. “The last time we were on a boat it did not go well.” He peers out at the water, as if conjuring his near drowning, the vessel’s sinking, and our being stalked by crocodiles.

“At least we have not been shot at with arrows,” Paser says, grinning.

“There’s still time,” Reb mutters.

“This boat is a lot more stable than the fisherman’s craft we, um …” I begin.

“Stole?” Reb scratches his beaky nose.

“Borrowed?” I suggest.

“Sank,” Paser offers. “But don’t let any of these sailors hear that.” Laden with dazzling treasures, the ship that’s transporting us has come from the rich Kingdom of Kush and is bound for the Hyksos capital. Having reached the delta at last, we’re entering the final leg of our journey; Avaris lies north on the most eastern branch of the Nile.

“I can’t believe we’re almost there.” Apprehension and excitement swirl in my stomach, tied as tight as any sailor’s knot.

“My apologies for the delay.” Paser’s eyes crinkle.

“You could not help getting sick,” I say. He was one of the hardest hit by the illness that struck the oasis. It is always of note to see whom the demons let be and whom they come for; I did not let them take my friend. “I’m just glad you’re better.”

“Thanks to you,” he says, voice soft.

“And the scroll,” I remind him. While tending Paser, I discovered it held a mysterious incantation that proved extremely beneficial to his health.

“You were the one to summon Heka, the universal magic, and send it into my body to wipe out the sickness,” he counters.

“You, Reb, and Min saved most of the villagers.” I wave a dismissive hand. But dealing with the illness did put us several days behind power-hungry Yanassi. The chieftain had left for the Hyksos capital to claim the crown from his dying father, taking Princess Merat, his betrothed and our friend, with him.

“Yes, yes, we are all wonderful healers.” Reb makes a face at us. “I just hope the horses are well cared for.” After racing across the sands to the port at Cusae, we were unable to bring the creatures on the ship, so we left them in the care of local officials. There, Pepi had made negotiations for us to board one of the many vessels departing for the Hyksos city.

“It is for the best.” Paser nods at poor Nefer, Pepi’s beloved donkey. She alone was permitted to come with us, and only because Pepi paid handsomely for our passage. Curled up at one end of the ship, she is lying next to a pile of barley straw, which she has not spared a glance for since our departure. Pepi believes the sturdy creature, born to land, is not fond of boats.

My eyes go to him now. He is speaking to the captain, who appears most honoured to be bringing the esteemed king’s nephew home. From the sailor’s respectful demeanour, it is clear that Pepi is held in high regard, whether due to his family connections or his own merits, likely both. Along with Yanassi, Pepi has been summoned by the Hyksos king, his uncle Khyan, who wishes to announce his successor. It is one of the reasons we sail for Avaris.

“Do you think you’ll be able to heal Akin?” Paser nods at the scroll in my robes, citing the other reason.

“I do not know,” I admit, recalling the soldier’s grave injuries after his fall from a horse. Yanassi’s second-in-command is also husband to my friend Amara, and we are all praying the papyrus holds the key to his recovery. “His leg is likely on the mend. His spine, however, is another matter …” I exhale deeply, wishing my breath could fill the sail to make us go faster. “The scroll is his best chance, but the longer he goes without treatment, the higher his risk.” I am nervous about performing the surgery on my own, without Min as originally planned, but the oasis physician assured me I am up for the task. I myself have doubts.

“You truly believe the scroll has power of life over death?” Reb holds his hand out for the surgical papyrus. I take it from my robes, reluctant to pass it over, but I do. He knows as well as I to be careful, and he gently extracts the delicate document from its casing, inspecting the ancient scripts and the potent incantation I’d discovered when healing Paser.

“If what Pepi said is true, then it also lies at the centre of a pair of prophecies,” Paser says, contemplating the enigmatic scroll. “What were the oracle’s words again?” Pepi was reluctant to reveal the prophecies at first, insisting that we focus on dealing with the sickness and those who fell ill from it. It wasn’t until the night before we left the oasis, with the majority of its inhabitants on the mend, that he finally agreed it was time. That moment he uttered their sacred words will forever be imprinted on my heart.

“Years ago,” Pepi says, his expression solemn, “there was a prophecy made by the famed Oracle of Avaris. One that is well known among the powers who rule the lands.” A wind rustles the palm fronds, causing shadows to dance across his face. I become aware of holding my breath, knowing I am about to hear something that will change the course of my life. Again. Taking a deep breath, Pepi casts his eyes skyward, as if commending his soul to the gods, then begins to recite.
At last.
We lean forward to catch his every word.

New Kingdoms, Old Kingdoms
Kingdoms in Between
For Those Who Wish to Rule Their People
The Scroll Is the Key
The One Who Holds the Healer’s Papyrus
Is the One Who Wields this Power
Of Life over Death
When the Gods Come to Devour

“Anyone else worried about the devouring gods part?” Reb says now, gingerly handing me back the papyrus, as if afraid it might bite him.

“I am more worried about why Yanassi wants the scroll,” I say, rolling it back up. “He said it was to heal Akin, but what if he wants it to cement his right to rule and justify an attack on Thebes?” I tuck the document back into my dust-stained robes. “Even now, he may be garnering support from the powers at Avaris and the surrounding villages for his military plans.” I look out at the water, the sky glowing crimson. “A war between the kingdoms could rip the lands apart.” I shiver, thinking of the Hyksos’s lethal weapons, their horses. Back in Thebes, I’d warned Pharaoh of their impressive technology, but only the gods know whether he was listening. “If Yanassi assumes the throne, this great river will run red with blood.”

“There is a chance the king could name Pepi as his successor,” Reb reasons. “After all, he is Khyan’s nephew.”

He is more than that, I want to say. He is Khyan’s son. But I bite my tongue. I swore to Pepi I would not reveal his secret. Yanassi cannot find out. If the chieftain perceives Pepi to be a legitimate threat to his successorship, it could put his life in serious danger.

“But Pepi does not believe he is meant to rule the land.” Paser crosses his arms and gives me a levelling gaze. “He thinks Sesha is.”

I shake my head in protest at Paser’s still-incomprehensible statement, my heart quickening again. “I cannot be meant to rule a kingdom, nor do I want to.”

“What you want may not matter,” Reb remarks. “Pepi is certain that the other prophecy refers to you.”

Editorial Reviews

With action, adventure, and a hint of magic in the writing, Sevigny delivers the perfect culmination to her Secrets of the Sands series while shedding light on a little-known pocket of history in The Oracle of Avaris. Sesha is a heroine who is smart, determined, and embodies girl power while kicking butt in a middle grade novel reminiscent of Lara Croft meets The Mummy. Strong plot and character development brings ancient Egypt exciting and alive for readers, like me, who need a great story to go with their history.

Paul Coccia, co-author of On The Line with Eric Walters

A fantastic adventure series that appeals to both children and adults, Alisha Sevigny’s Secrets of the Sands transports the reader to ancient Egypt with impeccable research and a heroine in the young scribe Sesha, who goes on a incredible journey with twists and turns and cliff-hangers that will keep you racing through the pages.

Lee Matthew Goldberg, author of The Mentor, The Ancestor, and The Runaway Train series

The conclusion to Sevigny's wonderful Secrets of the Sands mystery series whisks readers back to Ancient Egypt where friends Sesha, Paser, and Reb must find a missing oracle in order to prevent the Pharaoh from declaring war on Thebes.

Globe and Mail

The spirited characters are well-drawn and believable, the material appears thoroughly (and I mean admirably) researched, and the book is hard to put down. Glimpses into how mummies are made, how to charm a cobra, and what medical treatments were used in Ancient Egypt are the type of fascinating detail that inspire reflection and appreciation if a reader can pause long enough to contemplate them between the nonstop action scenes. The heroine is smart, brave, resourceful, and persistent, the stakes grow ever higher, while palace intrigue and wild romps through catacombs supply all that an adventure-loving reader could desire.

Pam Withers, award-winning author of Stowaway and First Descent

Immediately absorbing and brimming with intrigue. With plots that keep the reader breathless and richly detailed settings in ancient Egypt, these books truly captivate. Masterful character development reveals a worthy young heroine in Sesha who readers will loyally follow. A must-read series for upper middle-grade adventure lovers.

Michelle Kadarusman, author of Music for Tigers and Girl of the Southern Sea

Once again, Sesha’s adventures will sweep readers across deserts and into the duplicitous world of Egyptian royalty. The Oracle of Avaris is a fast-paced novel that is impossible to put down.

Colleen Nelson, author of Governor General's Award-nominated Harvey Holds His Own

Alisha Sevigny does more than tell a great story. She takes us to ancient Egypt to witness the struggles of its peoples, the foods, transportation, clothing and ceremonies of its cultures and a landscape of desert, temples, palaces and humble huts.

CanLit for Little Canadians

Sevigny excels at worldbuilding, layering the minutiae of daily life in convincing detail — in her hands, ancient Egypt, perennially fascinating, becomes a character in its own right. An immersive read for lovers of historical fiction.

Kirkus Reviews

With scheming at every turn and the stakes higher than ever, Sevigny carefully blends intrigue and action, making The Oracle of Avaris a gripping read. Sure to be a favourite for middle graders who enjoy fast paced plots intertwined with ancient settings. A magical series of ancient mystery and heroism that will endear readers.

B.R. Myers, author of Rogue Princess and the Nefertari Hughes series

This action-packed series brings the vibrant ancient kingdom to life in wonderful, shimmering detail.

Kate Blair, author of The Magpie’s Library

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