A dead warrior sent back to the land of the living confronts betrayal, treason, and romance in Scott’s (Magic of the Nile: Gods of Egypt, 2014, etc.) latest series novel.
Periseneb, an honorable leader in Pharaoh’s army, has been doomed to battle demons in the “gray lands” since his murder some 200 years ago. The lack of a proper burial prevented his spirit from moving into paradise until Ma’at, the goddess of truth, plucks him from his purgatory and offers him a deal: she’ll guarantee his passage into the “duat” if he can help preserve the balance of good and evil as her earthly champion. She provides few details, but Periseneb nonetheless agrees to the 30-day challenge. He’s put back into his home province, just in time to save Neithamun, the firecracker mistress of Heron Marsh, from an assault at the hands of her dastardly neighbor Haqaptah’s men. Haqaptah schemes to keep her estate in debt so that he can one day absorb the land for himself, and with payment due in one month, the clock is ticking. Periseneb interprets the deadline as a divine sign and offers to help her rescue the estate. As they toil side by side on an eleventh-hour push, a romance blossoms between the two. But complicating matters are Periseneb’s personal history at Heron Marsh and a treasonous plot in the province. Scott, who’s clearly done her historical research, paints a vivid ancient Egypt that will set readers’ imaginations ablaze with its detail and complexity. The relatively black-and-white characters, however, don’t quite match the Technicolor setting. Aside from the spunky Neithamun, whose working-girl approach sometimes makes her seem like a modern-day transplant, the many personalities of the story often come off as simplistic. The evolution of Neithamun and Periseneb’s relationship is also conventional, sticking to the tried-and-tested rules of romance writing. But although the story isn’t particularly deep-thinking or inventive, it succeeds as easy-to-read good-versus-evil entertainment thanks to Scott’s masterful worldbuilding.
A rather ordinary historical romance in an extraordinary setting.