Though in need of a final, pruning edit, this long, ambitious book is an elaborate and satisfying narrative, a must for...



The new fantasy novel by Nelson (Dragonslayer’s Sword, 2008) is set in an ancient Egypt that never fell.

The author presents a plausible society that has grown out of ancient Egypt and developed into a vaguely repressive police state that runs the White Walled City at the heart of the Black Land. Surveillance cameras (called Eyes of Horus) keep a careful watch on citizens, who are indoctrinated from childhood into the cult of the pharaoh. For young girls, fertility is their highest calling and being chosen for the pharaoh’s harem is a singular honor. One such young woman is Pu, who has already borne the pharaoh many children and, at the start of the novel, has a terrible secret that she confesses to Meres, her blunt and slightly priggish sister-in-law. Pu is pregnant again, but the pharaoh is not the father. This immediately traps Meres in a conflict between faith and family since Pu’s transgression is punishable by death. There follows an intricate and at times labored story in which Nelson shows the reader a well-conceived alternate ancient Egypt—characters have watches and drive cars, yet they also interact personally with their gods and obsess about their funerary rites. The author takes the daring step of having Meres remain mostly unlikable (the book’s main strength is its cast of secondary characters; Ramose, Meres’ husband, stands out as a particularly successful creation). Even after she undergoes what amounts to a spiritual conversion, Meres is still fussy and self-righteous. Nelson has a tin ear for dialogue—most of it is simply exposition in quotes—but she more than compensates for this with her ability to evoke all the contradictory atmospheres of her setting, a place where modern-day technology mingles easily with the superstitions of a vanished world.

Though in need of a final, pruning edit, this long, ambitious book is an elaborate and satisfying narrative, a must for devotees of ancient Egypt.

Pub Date: July 1, 2010


Page Count: 235

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2010

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.


A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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