PHARAOH
By Wilbur Smith

 

Publisher:  William Morrow (October 18, 2016)
Format: Hardcover
Price: $28.99
ISBN-13: 9780062276483
Kindle edition: $14.99

 

Reviewed by Larry Jung
(November, 2016)

 

This is the sixth book in Wilbur Smith’s Ancient Egypt series.  The narrator is Taita, a former slave and eunuch who has survived and prospered in the Pharaoh’s court and on the battlefield. He is a philosopher, poet, and tutor to the royal household, military strategist, and Pharaoh’s chief adviser.

His rise to exalted highs is no surprise as Taita is half-mortal and half-divine. He is ageless, though not immortal. His protector is a minor goddess, Inana, grand daughter of Zeus. Taita can speak to Inana and in times of crisis, she guides and protects him. In Taita’s Egypt it is a time when gods and goddesses walk among mortals and even breed. It is a time when miracles are possible and myth is reality.

Taita’s narration opens with Egypt’s defeat of the invading Hykos. After 50 years of occupation the Hykos have been driven out of the upper Nile. But this great success is eclipsed by the untimely death of the warrior Pharaoh Tamose, a good and popular ruler. Tamose is succeeded by his son, the effeminate and megalomaniac Utteric Turo, self-styled the Great. Pharaoh Utteric, who has never seen a battlefield, is paranoid of Taita’s success against the Hykos and instead of a hero’s welcome, accuses Taita of treason and condemns Taita to a hideous death. Thus begins Taita’s Egyptian Odyssey to restore his honor and save his beloved Egypt from the tyrant Utteric the Great.

PHARAOH is a novel of high adventure in the vein of Jason and the Argonauts and Homer. Smith deftly mixes action, romance, and myth. The book has a nice sense of pace. The author is not writing history but romantic adventure and plays fast and loose with ancient Egypt and the surrounding Mediterranean. Surprisingly there is a lack of details or effort to depict the setting of ancient Egypt. The description of Luxor and Sparta, for instance, are spare and general. But the pace and the author’s narrative skills carry the reader along. 

PHARAOH is a quick read and entertaining for those not too particular about historical accuracy and who enjoy the period and setting of ancient Egypt. Even though this book is part of a series, you don’t need to have read the previous books. 


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