Warning: This review contains mild spoilers!
The Golden Goblet, published in 1961, is set during the reign of Amenhotep II, about 100 years after Mara took place. It is the story of a boy named Ranofer, the son of a great metalsmith who becomes orphaned and is forced to live with his half-brother Gebu. The story has a Cinderella-esque quality about it, as Ranofer is a kind and moral boy who is badly mistreated by his half-brother and forced to work as an apprentice in Gebu's stonecutting shop rather than being allowed to follow his dream of being a goldsmith like his father. Ranofer's luck takes a turn when he discovers a golden goblet that was robbed from a tomb, and with his friends Heqet and the Ancient One, Ranofer helps solve a crime and takes his life into his own hands.
The book is similar in length to Mara, with only about a 30 page difference. However, the plot is much smaller and simpler, and meanders leisurely across its 248 pages. The plot of the book does not really get going until about 150 pages in. However, despite being slower-paced than Mara, The Golden Goblet is still a good read if only for the immense detail about everyday Egyptian life it provides. The arts of stoneworking and metalsmithing are explained in intricate detail, and I came away feeling a lot more knowledgeable.
Readers of McGraw's other Egyptian novels might also enjoy the few throwbacks to her previous books that were included. For example, the titular golden goblet is in fact a former possession of Thutmose III! It only makes sense, considering what a large role Thutmose played in both Mara and Pharaoh.
One thing that struck me as I read this book is that you can definitely see how Eloise Jarvis McGraw adjusts her writing style based on the intended audience. The Golden Goblet, being a novel for young children, has a short, simple and straightforward plot, with likewise straightforward characters. Ranofer is the ideal moral role model for children, being a morally pure character who suffers much hardship but overcomes by always doing the right thing. Mara, on the other hand, is written for young adults (teens, basically) and as such provides a much more intricate and action-filled plot. Moreover, it is driven by morally complex characters like Mara and Sheftu, who have more than their fair shares of flaws. This makes them more dynamic and enjoyable for readers of a higher reading level. Finally, it is worth bringing in her third book, Pharaoh, which was written for adults and features characters so morally conflicted that they make Mara look like a Disney Princess. I found this gradation in writing style to be very interesting!
Overall, though The Golden Goblet does not share the dynamic complexity of Mara, it is still a good story and well worth a read. I recommend it to any fan of Eloise Jarvis McGraw or ancient Egypt.