Indiana Jones and the Dance of the Giants

The 2nd book in the series was also released in 1991, Indiana Jones and the Dance of the Giants. It also happens to be next chronologically — which is the case for all of Rob MacGregor’s books, which take place a decade or more before the events of the movies. For example, this one takes place in 1925, where the movies occur in the mid-30s.

In Dance of the Giants, we catch Indy not long after his previous adventure in Greece. Now he’s out of grad school and has his first temporary teaching gig at the archaeology department of London University (he switched majors after the events of the previous book, now specializing in the field for which he’d eventually become famous). Things aren’t going all that well for him — after all, it’s his first teaching job. To make things worse, he’s caught the eye of one of his best students, Deirdre Campbell, a spirited Scottish girl. Her mother, Joanna, also happens to be Indy’s boss!

Deirdre knows her stuff, but she also seems to know a bit more about Merlin than seems reasonable, and talks about a golden scroll that supposedly belonged to Merlin himself. Before long, Indy is invited by Joanna to a dig in southwestern Britain, and his hopes of a permanent job at the university hinge on how well he can impress her.

Problem is, Deirdre has a jealous ex-flame, Adrian Powell, who still stalks her, and Indy has a couple of run-ins with him. He’s more than just dangerous: he’s also a rising member of Parliament and a neo-Druid! He also has a sinister plan to revive the power of the Druids that involves Stonehenge and Deirdre’s golden scroll.

The Omphalos, the mystic Delphi stone Indy helped recover in the previous book, is also involved. It has been stolen, and is a key component of Powell’s planned Druidic ritual at Stonehenge.

Stonehenge, where the climax takes place.

This is only the 2nd of MacGregor’s books, but we can already see an emphasis on history and scholarship. It’s clear his interest in Indiana Jones is more on the academic, rather than action, side. When MacGregor watches Indiana Jones, he’s swept up in the way history echoes into the present than in the way Indiana Jones survives escalating action sequences by his wits, or in the implausible traps and perils, or the intact ruins, etc. Though this book has plenty of suspense and conflict, it doesn’t offer much by way of action. There’s a sequence where Indy and some allies are captured and locked in an abandoned castle, then have to find their way through secret passages while their captors search for them. There are a few brief fights or foot chases. And it all culminates in a dramatic scene at Stonehenge. But much like Peril at Delphi, this is a more sedate adventure than we’re accustomed to seeing from Indiana Jones.

As far as characterization and dialogue, MacGregor does seem to have a solid grasp of the character. Indy is complex and flawed, sometimes grumpy but good at heart. He says things that feel “in character.” And the dialogue, even in the highly-academic parts, doesn’t feel too stilted.

Canon or Not?

There’s a solid throughline from Delphi to this book, and though you don’t have to have read book 1, it does lend some context that would otherwise be missing. And since we’re exploring Indy’s early years when he was first getting into the more dangerous side of “pulp archeology,” this seems like a nice 2nd outing. I’ll go ahead and consider it canon.

Skip It or Read It?

If you read the first one and are on board with this alternative (and, in my opinion, more plausible) origin story for Indiana Jones, I’d say go ahead and read it. If you’re aching for some action, follow it up with a Clive Cussler novel.

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