What I liked:Have I mentioned that I am a real sucker for alchemy? If I haven’t, here it is – I make it official. It’s enough a book mentions Hermes Trismegistus, Prester John, golems, the Fountain of Youth, the Philosopher’s Stone, Emerald Tablets and Nicolas Flamel (not necessarily in this order) and it can win me over in a sec. This novel mixed all these ingredients together and the author did it in a clever way, apparently backed up by some serious research. I loved every second of it; in fact I wouldn’t mind having more.The character development didn’t disappoint me either, at least in most of cases. Grey is perhaps still a bit too serious and taciturn but in the second installment it is apparent that he can think and feel, not only do jujitsu. We see less of Nya (good move imvho, she became a wet blanket a bit too soon) and a new girl, Veronica, is introduced. Overall I liked her better. She was perhaps a bit too much like one of these annoying Bond girls (you know the drift: intelligent but not overly so, very pretty, very sexy, definitely in need of a strong, manly arm) but I hope she will gain more depth later. I liked the fact that she fell in love and, despite her best efforts, it remained rather unrequited. I also liked the idea of adding another new character- Jax the mercenary – to the mix. Jax is very selfish, neither completely good nor totally bad but, maybe because of it, very likeable. He brings his ironic sense of humour and almost complete lack of scruples on board. Well, in the whole narration whirlwind I missed some humour in the first part too. Indiana Jones's type of humour. Let’s face it: Grey is a dour kind of guy and while I understand the reasons behind it, his constant pining for Nya and reminiscing his harsh childhood and teen years can get tiresome after a while; Victor is even more sour from time to time, not to mention the fact that he is an absinthe addict (an original addiction, I grant you, but not exactly a sociable one). Veronica can be catty in an amusing way but, as she is now seriously in love with our long-faced Dominic, she is not exactly a ray of sunshine either. Jax, with his sexual innuendos, zest for life and witty remarks was like a whiff of fresh air in a stuffy room.The setting was once again interesting. Perhaps not as exotic as Zimbabwe but interesting enough. The pace of narration, as in the first part, could leave you breathless (or, more precisely, reading greedily far longer than you had planned) so doing exactly what a real thriller should do to you.What I didn’t like:I could list here different minor quibbles (some scenes, like the just-in-time rescue of Veronica, were rather cheesy, fortunately not too many of them) but there was one major drawback. Baddies. I noticed an improvement but not enough. Is it really that difficult to make your evil guy handsome, clever and enticing, at least for a moment or two? Apparently it is – in this part every baddie was physically repulsive in his own way so you knew at once when you read their descriptions what and who you were dealing with. Cliché. It’s good some of them (Al Miri) at least showed some higher feelings.Final verdict:I must visit Egypt and maybe also Bulgaria – if not this year then the next one. Going there, I will gladly reread this one. Or the next part, if available. It is really good and intelligent as far as thrillers go, not to mention the entertainment factor. I wouldn't be surprised if the series was adapted for the screen in the near future.