Desert God, by Wilbur Smith
HarperCollins, (2014), Hardcover, 432 pages
Basically, Wilbur Smith is an an author I can take or leave as I see fit. I have read a few of his books over the years, but have never really followed his long-running series, just dipping in now and then to read a particular title that for some reason has caught my fancy. The sole exception to this is his River God series, set in a semi-fantastical Egypt. I have read every one of the four books in the series, and found them all enjoyable, even if he plays fast and loose with the history of Ancient Egypt, which is neither or there really, since he makes no pretense of writing a historically accurate story. The main problem is that the books have come out so far apart it is difficult to remember what has happened in the previous stories. Although the books are all self-contained, it would help to have a refresher of the previous tales at the beginning, just to remind one of where the principal characters have come from. In this particular story, the Hyksos invaders, portrayed here as sub-human brutes (reminiscent of Tolkienesque orcs) rather than the simple nomadic Semitic people they really were, have been driven out of Upper Egypt but still occupy the Nile Delta, cutting off the true Egyptian regime from access to the Mediterranean. Taita, the ageless adviser to the young Pharoah, conceives a plan to enlist the help of the other superpowers of the day, Babylon and Minoan Crete, in driving the Hyksos from their ill-gotten conquests, but of course the story is never as simple as that, since to do so, Taita will have sacrifice the two virgin princesses he dotes on to marriage with the Minoan ruler. An entertaining enough story, if not intellectually challenging, fast-moving, with stirring battle scenes, wonderful descriptions of the ancient world and a truly epic denouement. I am not going to say this is great literature, it is not, but if you are not picky about historical accuracy, and are really craving a light read that also satisfies your itch to immerse yourself in the ancient world, this is well worth your time.