THE FIRST PHARAOH by Lester Picker


Book 1 of the First Dynasty Series
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A child of Egyptian royalty is destined for greatness, in another historical fiction book by author Picker (2012, The Dagger of Isis).

Gifted healer Anhotek is unable to save Queen Neith-hotpu, who dies giving birth to Prince Meni. Anhotek believes Meni is blessed by the gods, though the sickly child has episodes of shaking sometimes accompanied by visions—an adroit foreshadowing device. Meni’s father, Scorpion, marries Mersyankh, cousin of King W’ash, bringing with her a master of dark magic, Ihy. Mersyankh gives birth to Neter-Maat who, although younger than Meni, grows larger in size. Scorpion’s habitual drunkenness allows Mersyankh and Ihy to assert influence, planning for Neter-Maat to become king. In numerous engaging scenes, Anhotek teaches, mentors and protects the insatiably curious Meni, serving as the boy’s surrogate father, arranging for his instruction in military strategy and treating Meni’s shakes with an effective, potentially deadly potion. Teenager Meni is smitten with the beautiful El-Or, and after Scorpion’s death, he rules as King Narmer with El-Or as queen. Even after Narmer is crowned, Mersyankh continues her scheming and Ihy his practice of dark magic. This tale of historical fiction seamlessly blends rich factual detail about ancient Egypt with a young man’s ascendancy to the throne amidst court intrigue, largely wrought by his dysfunctional extended family. The wealth of information—about papyrus, the priesthood or politics—never usurps the story. At the nucleus is the affecting teacher-pupil bond of Anhotek and Meni/Narmer, which assuredly matures into that of proud father and adoring son. Events unfold during natural cycles of the Nile, including Inundation, when the waters breach the riverbank and people are prone to excesses and bureaucratic cycles of trade and taxation. Narmer fights alongside his soldiers, wisely rallying them in battle, yet he is not without fault. He demands extreme punishment in a legal matter, and in later years, understandably develops an alcohol dependency like Scorpion.

This historically based novel ably blends fact and fiction and considers the mutual love of a wise man and his protégé.

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 2012
Page count: 447pp
Publisher: Aryeh Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
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