Wilbur Smith (a name synonymous with the massive blockbuster thriller) has recaptured the verve and impact of his earlier work in Warlock
. This Egyptian epic thriller follows on from the equally accomplished and and re-establishes Smith at the top echelons of thriller writing. The customary continent-spanning canvas is here, with a key new element in an adroitly handled supernatural aspect that gives the sequence the feel of fantasy whilst still retaining the plausibility that was always Smith's strongest asset.
The reader is plunged into a vividly realised evocation of life in ancient Egypt but one presented with insights into the various characters that infuse a very contemporary feel. In the secluded deserts of North Africa, Taita has spent the years since the death of his adored Queen Lostris studying to become a Warlock, steeped in the arcane arts of the ancient Gods and a master practitioner of magic. Responding to an occult summons, Taita abandons the desert and returns to civilisation, only to find himself at the centre of a massive conflagration in which dark and sinister forces are undermining the throne of Egypt and attempting to destroy the young prince Nefer. Soon, his hard-won skills are tested to the limit.
As in the previous books in the sequence, Smith knows that a strong and passionate agenda on the part of his protagonists will allow the reader to identify with them, despite the gap of centuries. Here, it is family ties: Taita is defending the young prince who is the grandson of his lost Queen, and we are quickly engaged in a narrative that rarely flags over its considerable length. The action set pieces are as impressive as one would expect:
The instant he was within range the Cobra struck again, but Nefer caught the blow on the thick leather folds of the bag. The beast's fangs snagged in the leather and held fast. As Nefer swung back the snake was dragged with him. It was hauled cleanly out of the nest, a writhing, seething ball of coils and polished scales. It thrashed against Nefer's legs, the heavy tail lashing him, hissing fearsomely, clouds of venom spraying from its gaping jaws and dribbling down the leather bag. So great was its weight that Nefer's whole body was shaken violently.
From Publishers Weekly
Lengthy but seamlessly composed, this epic historical drama by veteran author Smith (The Eye of the Tiger, etc.) tracks a power struggle in ancient Egypt between false pharaohs and a true royal heir, evoking the cruel glories and terrible torments of the era. The kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt have been at war for 60 years. Upper Egypt is ruled by Tamose, Lower Egypt by Apepi, king of the Hyksos. Treachery and assassination eliminate both rulers, allowing two false pharaohs to unite in an orgy of tyranny and oppression. Tamose's son, Prince Nefer, is his father's rightful heir, but the false pharaoh, Lord Naja, denies Nefer's birthright and plots to kill the young prince. Aided by the royal sorcerer, a warlock named Taita, Nefer escapes Naja's plots. Nefer and Taita outwit assassins, evil magicians, pursuing armies and even the treachery of Nefer's own sister, as they raise their own army in the lost desert city of Gallala. Taita's magic spells and occult powers protect, teach and guide Nefer on his tortuous path to regain the throne and save the woman he loves, Princess Mintaka, daughter of slain King Apepi. However, as Nefer's strength grows, so does that of his enemies, and it will take all of Nefer's courage and Taita's mystical powers to prevail when the chariot armies of evil sweep across the desert wasteland to the gates of Gallala. This is a very bloody and violent yarn, set in an age when merciless combat, torture, rape and sacrifice were common. Though timorous readers may wish to steer clear, those willing to brave the blood and gore will be carried away by the sweep and pace of Smith's tale. National advertising.
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