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Review: The Murder of King Tut

Tutankhamen captured the hearts and minds of the Western world in a way no other Egyptian pharaoh has. Since Howard Carter’s discovery of Tut’s undisturbed tomb in 1922, people have marveled at the wonders it revealed. But there were many unanswered questions about both Tut’s life and his death, most brought to light because of the attempts by Tut’s successors to wipe him from the historical record. This graphic novel adaptation of James Patterson’s nonfiction book tells the story of Tut’s life and of Carter’s amazing discovery.

The Murder of King Tut
Author: James Patterson; Adaptation: Alexander Irvine; Art: Ron Randall & Christopher Mitten
Ages: 14+; Grades 9+
IDW, November 2010, ISBN: 9781600107801
132 pages, $24.99

The main problem with this adaptation of Patterson’s book is that it gives too little information, a fatal error for a nonfiction work. The story begins abruptly in Ancient Egypt with Tut’s grandfather, though it takes some time for readers to realize that is who the dying pharaoh is. Without character guides, background notes, a summary of events, or other such explanatory material, the reader must already possess a good knowledge of Ancient Egyptian history in order to follow the story. Tut’s family history is contrasted with Carter’s career in Egyptology and archaeology, but the scenes with Carter are not any easier to follow, because they also lack background information. The last chapter switches to a voice over narration by Patterson, which is jarring after four previous chapters told through the eyes of the characters. Patterson talks about “following the evidence” to find out what happened to Tut, but he never offers any insight into what that evidence might be. There are no source notes, no bibliography, no other supporting information which would make this adaptation useful in a classroom or research setting.

What the adaptation does get right is pacing and artwork. Even with the shifting between Ancient Egypt and the early 1900s, the reader is never confused about when they are. This is accomplished by using two different artists. Mitten’s more artistic style presents the Egyptians as powerful people caught up in webs of politics, war, family, and love. Randall’s realistic art gives Carter’s story the historical grounding it needs. Irvine does a great job of making the story adventurous, exciting, and interesting, even with the major gaps mentioned above. Unfortunately, though, good art alone cannot save a graphic novel and there are just too many flaws for this adaptation to be recommended. Public library fans of Patterson’s novels may or may not be clamoring for this nonfiction work, but its many flaws definitely make it unsuitable for school libraries.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © IDW.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.


  1. What the publishers also don’t want you to know is that a study came out a few months after the book was released proving that King Tut died of Tuberculosis. So the whole “murder” thing is pretty much fiction now.

  2. Snow Wildsmith says:

    Very interesting, Katie! I didn’t know that. Thanks for sharing!

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