A historical novel set in 3,500 B.C. that chronicles a seemingly inevitable war between Upper and Lower Egypt.
King Wadjha, the ruler of Lower Egypt, is anxious about the ascension of Upper Egypt’s King Narmer to the throne. The enmity between the two kingdoms is an eternal one, and every half-century or so, war predictably erupts. King Wadjha anticipates an imminent invasion, so he tasks two elite soldiers to slip into Upper Egypt to obtain covert intelligence. King Wadjha’s son, Prince Mach, tries to convince his father of the foolishness of this plan, and he enlists the help of High-Priest Dsjot-Month and General Haka to stop it. Meanwhile, Ounnefer’s lifelong dream of becoming a priest is finally realized, but when he returns home from a trip with his best friend, Dadkera, he finds his wife and daughter savagely murdered. The two immediately track down and kill the assassins—King Wadjha’s spies—and then enlist in the army, where they’re called upon to train the military’s elite troops. Later, a major character strikes a deal with King Narmer to provide valuable inside information and train and lead his navy when war commences. Debut author English maintains a swift, propulsive pace and packs his narrative with an abundance of action. The prose, though, is pedestrian at best, and sometimes simply awkward: “He noticed her nipples were hard and this gave Ounnefer a tingling sensation from his arm that she grazed all the way down to his groin where that special body part lied.” Also, the dialogue is peculiarly modern at times, which undermines the overall sense of historical authenticity. For example, when Ounnefer takes issue with Dadkera at one point, his friend responds, “I am sorry. My bad”; later, Dadkera refers to a general dismissively as “a dick.” Still, the story is otherwise marvelously researched and remains gripping throughout.
An often rousing account of ancient Egyptian politics, despite some moments of unspectacular writing.