This summer, I've discovered new, incredible authors I'd never read before. This week's review is on a novel that I can only describe as unparalleled! The required imagination to sequence scenes that play out like a Stephen Spielberg film in book form is truly a gift. And the author gifted with this skill is unfortunately, no longer with us.
Wilbur Smith was a South African novelist with an accounting background who was extraordinarily prolific in his writing. The Ancient Egypt series, of which River God is the first book, contains six volumes and a seventh has been completed by another author, Mark Chadbourn. Smith passed away suddenly in November of last year. He was eighty-eight years old, and was writing and creating outlines for books until his final breath.
It was mere chance that I wound up with River God. As a reader, it's delightful imagination candy when I pick up a book that I'm unable to put down. As an author, it staggered my mind how beautifully Smith penned plot and characters--for each character was so well-wrought, that even the individual with smaller roles had great impact on the story and at times, impacted the main character, Taita.
I'm thrilled to share this review of one of the five best books I've read this year. If you've not read River God, I've included a buy link at the bottom of the review. I usually don't mention "trigger warnings", but I will state that Smith writes relentlessly, and that includes some rather gory and graphic scenes that some readers might want to avoid. But again, we're talking about the ancient world. Life was far from sacred back then.
Review of River God
By: Brook Allen
Whenever someone at work "gives" things away, they leave the items on a long table in the lounge. I found this book among some other used paperbacks one day, and since I have a passion for the ancient world, I picked it up and read the back-cover blurb. It was brand new copy--had never been cracked. I had never read Wilbur Smith, so I figured at the least, it would be a new author for me.
What. A. Read.
This is Indiana Jones Meets Lord of the Rings and gets smacked with Egyptology. I could hardly put this book down. Now, for those with weak stomachs, be advised that Smith doesn't hedge from gore. He describes EVERYTHING in technicolor, and nothing is sacred--not even the Egyptian gods. However, Smith could spin an adventure tale like nobody else I've ever read.
Taita is the unlikely hero of the book, though through his telling in first person, one might think the hero is Tanus or Memnon. Nevertheless, Smith chose a slave--a crafty eunuch--of all people, who has more than one reason for hating his master, to be the story-teller/protagonist in the plot. Taita has one real weakness, and that is his love for his mistress, Lostris. As the story builds, so do the characters, and Smith uses everything from the Book of the Dead to biological warfare to enhance a flowing river of the plot as steady as the Nile. Taita is the sort of guy who comes up with solutions, not problems. He's a jack of all trades and has earned the respect of both Pharaohs and the common people using his intelligence, and a courage he doesn't even realize he has until it's necessary. Smith draws the reader in to adventure after adventure, and then entire book is really a journey up the Nile into uncharted vistas. Taita leads his people every step of the way.
Antagonists include the purely evil Intef, the disgusting Aktoun of Ethiopia, and various Hyksos conquerors. (See my hairy illustration at right!) This is NOT pure historical fiction, for there are many dubious plot devices that are probably not period-authentic or even possible for that matter. But that being said, Smith provides the reader with hearty and original entertainment taking place during a murky time in Egyptian history--the Hyksos conquest over Egypt. And the adventure is as rich as a Pharaoh's undiscovered tomb!
Suffice it to say--I have already ordered the second book in this series, which is waiting patiently in my TBR pile.
If you're at all intrigued by ancient history and love adventure and romance--READ THIS BOOK!
Buy River God