They built a civilization ahead of its time, and dominated the ancient world.
They defined an era of war, love, passion, power, and betrayal.
They were a people of mystery whose secrets have turned to dust -- but who inspire our awe and wonder even to this day....
The ancient Egyptians
They showed us how to live. And how to die.
A solid step up from his other book series I read. His characters are more deeply motivated. The
landscape feels very authentic (as did his other, but I feel more historically indulged in this book). I just wanted to sit and read this book all day and night!
Surprisingly, one of the main characters is really hard to get behind, Paneb, but you see development here and there with him. Jacq has the talent to somehow get you interested in him though. He is quick to anger, he does not show appreciate to women, and he even cheats on a wife expecting his baby (granted, she did impose herself on him as basically a servant because she was in love with him, which is, well, demeaning in my opinion). Yet you can see his maturity sprinkle in the mix. I really went back and forth on him. While he seemed to begin to show growth in one chapter, he would revert in the next, and then I would not like him as much as the previous chapter. But near the end of this book, he did end up being more thoughtful and a better listener. He had a love of learning. Still, I’m not a huge fan due to his outlook on women.
In the Queen of Freedom (QoF) series, most characters had names that were a personality or facial tribute versus an actual Egyptian name. This story combines both an Egyptian name and a descriptive name, which makes more sense than the former. Having someone go by the name “the Arab” and “Moustache,” while they were great characters, felt a bit like a give up to me on the author’s part. In this story, characters are given names as they enter the Brotherhood.
As I mentioned before, the characters in this book have deep feelings. They are motivated by internal desires. You can really feel the emotion in this story. Most of the characters of the QoF series were pretty shallow and showed almost no emotional depth until the end. Strong men and women do not have to be devoid of emotions! This book seemed to get that. While many different characters can take the stage in this novel, their personalities really define them and make you want to keep reading (even if you don’t like them!). I seriously did not want to stop reading this book! I was a little disappointed that Nefer the Silent’s development seemed to stop after his got his name Nefer. He became a stoic side character to Paneb’s more dominating personality. I wanted more from Nefer after he began advancing up the ranks of craftsmen, not Paneb’s observations of his ascent.
The landscape felt more authentic in this story. Jacq put in a great blend of mystical and realism. People were inspired and driven by their beliefs, but they had to work hard, show dedication, lead an honest life, and were masters of their own fate. They did not rely on signs from the gods before taking action.
What I do find interesting is that Jacq emphasizes the one God who gave birth to many. He hardly mentions the rest of the multitude of gods by name except for a few like Thoth, Hathor, and Sekhmet. The emphasis is on one all-powerful God. This seems a rather Christian emphasis, especially after the hearsay of Akhenaten’s one god. Historically speaking, there were many different versions of the creation story for the Egyptians. So I would conclude this use of “God” versus god could be because Jacq kept the story in Thebes, and Thebes’ patron god is Amon. The other cities would have their worship and prayers centered on other gods. I can say that I liked the way it was handled. Jacq had some beautiful allegories with it too. His language and expressed enlightened thoughts were a delight in this book, which all stemmed from the religious beliefs. This belief also was the foundation for the Brotherhood and guided their methods and rituals. There were so many layers to the culture through the religious belief system. Everything branches out from this strong foundation. I just ate it up the way Jacq used it in the story.
As with QoF, the time period is hard to follow. Jacq will occasionally throw in a “for 10 years now” statement, but overall, the passage of time is difficult to tell. I did not find it a deterrent though as the characters and storyline were so strong.
But what I most loved was the details and the way life was carried out in this village. Their work has survived thousands of years. They created and decorated the tombs, and we still adore them today. This story really expands on life. Its not just throwing an ancient world on us to show it off. Its about how the pigments of colors were made, the division of work groups and how they functioned together, the way things were measured, how grids were used and the proportions of drawings on these grids, their mathematics, the way a stone was checked to be level, rituals of purification, how medicines were created and used, etc. The culture is so thick, and the storyline is made so much richer with these added details of life. It highlighted how people behaved and what was important to them. I loved learning the trade of these tomb builders along with the characters’ experiences.
The book wow’d me. It had great respect for the people of this time period. I’m glad I read this after QoF, otherwise that series would have seriously disappointed me after the dazzling depth of this story. I can’t wait to keep going into book 2!
Just released December 2016: "The Forgotten" volume 2 "Heir of the Heretic"
Reviewed and awarded the
2016 Indie Editor's Choice
by the Historical Novel Society.
Long listed for the Historical Novel Society 2017 Indie Award.
Goodreads profile at: https://www.goodreads.com/JElse