For over a century, two shadowy organisations have waged war over an Egyptian immortality rite. Every thirty-three years, the Sect of Anubis perform a ritual on a woman who bares the Mark of Kharis which bonds the woman with the spirit of priestess Nebetah releasing the elixir of immortality. The ritual is gruelling and always ends in the woman’s death. The Pyramid Club want to stop the cycle of death and elitism.
Angel bears the mark and is set to become the next vessel for Nebetah when Duncan of the Pyramid Club frees her. But, the bonding has already started. Angel must either let the bonding ritual finish and die, or fight it and lose her memories, including those of her deceased twin sister. Can she find an alternative that doesn’t result in Angel’s physical or mental destruction?
The story has a feminist theme. Angel doesn’t trust either organisation, despite their offers of help. She relies on her own skill set and intuition to save herself. After all, the Club and the Sect have been fighting for over a century and haven’t resolved anything. By embracing the bonding, Angel has access to powers the men don’t and is an active participant in her own salvation. This makes the constant reference to her appearance by the male characters frustrating. While some of them are nearer 200 years old than twenty, even Duncan, her peer, comments on her beauty over her resilience and determination.
The artwork is clear in places and confusing in others. The story includes hallucinations, flashbacks, and scenes in the underworld as well as following five POVs. Changes of border styling set the tone for which one it is. It is quite shadowy at times. Sometimes it isn’t clear which group of rich men we’re following until someone says a name.
Then, there is dialogue. Even considering the age of the male characters, some of the word choices were clunky and jarring, breaking up the flow of reading. Again, this archaic, sexist, upper-class mannerism is found in Duncan where it feels out of place and puts him on the wrong side of likeable. It’s hard to root for a young guy who uses the word fiends to describe a murdering sect of upper-class chauvinistic pigs.
Finally, there is a lack of urgency. One minute the Sect of Anubis are using all sorts of magic to find Angel when she runs away, then they send a sex trafficker after her and if that doesn’t work, they’ll threaten the life of the Egyptian Ambassador. Four days pass but it isn’t clear where the time has gone. And that is a shame because had the order of plans to find her were reversed, Angel’s peril would have increased rather than fizzle out at the end.
After the story, there is the history of the Hammer Mummy movies, detailing their inspiration, filming processes, and the bad luck which dogged them. I found this helpful in grounding the Palimpsest in its source material and the sexualised artistic style.