We’re seven weeks away from the release of The Eye of God, by James Rollins, and I’m marking the countdown with reviews of all the previous Sigma Force novels.
This is the second book in a series. While the book itself contains minor spoilers for Sandstorm, this review does not.
Map of Bones, by James Rollins
#2 in the Sigma Force series
William Morrow, July 2005
434 pages (hardcover)
During a crowded service at a cathedral in Germany, armed intruders in monks’ robes unleash a nightmare of blood and destruction. But the killers have not come for gold; they seek a more valuable prize: the bones of the Magi who once paid homage to a newborn savior… a treasure that could reshape the world.
With the Vatican in turmoil, SIGMA Force leaps into action. An elite team of scientific and Special Forces operatives under the command of Grayson Pierce and accompanied by Lieutenant Rachel Verona of Rome’s carabinieri, they are pursuing a deadly mystery that weaves through sites of the Seven Wonders of the World and ends at the doorstep of an ancient, mystical, and terrifying secret order. For there are those with dark plans for the stolen sacred remains that will alter the future of humankind… when science and religion unite to unleash a horror not seen since the beginning of time.
This was actually the first James Rollins book I ever read, an impulse buy at Target back when I was in college. I didn’t realize it was part of a series, but as I mentioned in last week’s installment, you don’t need to read Sandstorm to enjoy Map of Bones. (Unless you really do need to… I get it, I’m usually the same way.) Of course, reading this first will give away a few details when you go back to the first book, but the overall mystery remains very much intact.
Map of Bones may be the second book in the series, but it’s really more like a second beginning; there’s much more continuity from here on, if not with the adventures, then certainly with the characters and their relationships with one another.
Like I mentioned before, Rollins really does write great characters. You can find some hints of cliche, but Gray is more than a guy who doesn’t play by the rules, and Monk is more than just plucky comic relief. Those phrases are decent descriptions of their role in the story, but it isn’t all of who they are.
Similarly, Rachel doesn’t exist solely as Gray’s love interest, although there is a romantic undercurrent there. While romance itself isn’t one of Rollins’s main strengths, getting inside his characters is. He digs into the characters and why each is drawn to the other, rather than just throwing them together based on a superficial physical attraction. It makes for a more realistic connection, one that’s much more suited to my personal taste when it comes to romance… even if those scenes still feel a bit clunky when compared to the action sequences.
As for the story itself, it’s a pretty typical James Rollins thriller — fast-paced, lots of action, bits of history and science, combined with a lot of what if. The Sigma team, along with their allies and adversaries, race across Europe to solve the puzzle. Especially since the puzzle is based in religious history, it draws a lot of comparisons to The Da Vinci Code, and rightly so… they are very similar, at least on the surface. I actually picked this up because of those comparisons; I’d recently read all of Dan Brown’s books, enjoyed the fast pace and twisting plots, and I wanted more. What I got was a much better book and a new favorite author.
Next week: Black Order.
How did you discover your favorite author?