A bestselling book by Wilbur Smith
chronicling the further adventures
of the palace eunuch Taita
, and his guiding influence on the realm of Ancient Egypt
, especially it's ruling line
. In this book he's raising the grandson
of his one true love Lostris
to be Pharoah
, as he did his father
, and his father
before him. Now he's knocking on 200 years old
, and since the last book he's spent some time in the Egyptian Desert
and has become a Warlock
, an adept of magic.
I read the first book (River God) several years ago, and missed the middle book, so I was looking forward to the story once I got re-acquainted with Taita. The book starts with him and Pharoah's heir Nefer Seti out in the desert in search of the child's God Bird, a creature they need before he can take the throne. While this is happening, Pharoah's most trusted friend and commander of his armies - a guy named Naja - turns out to be one of the enemy, isolates and murders Pharoah, and declares himself the ruler of the Upper Kingdom of Egypt. He then goes on to take Pharoah's two daughters in marriage. Nefer comes back, miffed, but can't do anything cos he's too young. Naja signs a treaty with the enemy kingdom of Lower Egypt to the north, and while he's busy plotting and scheming, Nefer and Taita escape by taking advantage of lion that happens to maul the young prince, allowing him to fake death.
Very convoluted? Contrived? I couldn't agree more. It sounds like it should be intriguing, like it should draw you in, immerse you in a world of chariots and romance, sand and desert gods, ancient rituals etc, but it just bores you rigid!
The author is a mediocre writer, it's like he's aware that this book is a cash cow and all he has to do is milk it for 700 pages and then once the reader's hooked - do it all again in the next book! It makes you want to slap him in the face with a pyramid! There are three simple types of scene used here, bonding/sex, war/training, and senseless brutality.
In that order, ad infinitum.
There's no sense of depth, character progression, or any of the subtlety that I know this he's capable of, because he used it in the first book.
I don't want to be unfair, it's a good book to read late at night. The style is easy to digest, the grammar is good, and some of the descriptions are quite good indeed. He obviously has done his research, and kudos to him for that. I could even forgive all the other faults, see past them, if it weren't for the fatal flaw, Taita.
In the original book, River God, Taita single handedly saved the entire Kingdom of Egypt using his exceptional intelligence, wisdom and innovation. That book had us believe that he invented the wheel, and built the first chariot thus arming his kingdom for victory and glory. In this book, rather than being slowed down by old age, he's even more powerful. If you can believe that.
He's everywhere, doing everything, cleaning up after his little Pharoah Nefer, and random adults alike. He has a reputation that rivals kings, he's never wrong, he's never angry, he saves the day all over the place, and is generally perfect. He shows no human weakness whatsoever. Smith showed exceptional restraint in not giving him a cape.
You get the distinct impression he's holding the whole story together, because if he were less than perfect, the implausible and frankly modular set pieces would not fit together into a story.
In short, avoid it. The real history of Egypt is much more fun, colourful, and interesting.