A Mixed Bag – A bit of everything under the sun

The River God – Book Review

Posted on: May 26, 2010

Author: Wilbur Smith

Category: Fiction

Rating: ★★★

The South African writer, Wilbur Smith has written over 20 books and the River God is the first of the Egyptian Series. Set in the time of ancient Egypt, this is a tale of an Egyptian queen narrated through the eyes of a eunuch-slave called Taita. Lostris is the daughter of a lord and Taita is his slave who has been looking after Lostris. She is in love with a soldier Tanus and the relationship predictably is disapproved by her father who gets her married to the Pharaoh. Lostris however continues her liaison with Tanus with help from Taita.  What happens to the characters and their relationships in the face of an attack on Egypt forms the rest of the story.

The plot is weaved well and the Egyptian life is highly enchanting. But it also has many flaws. It is written in first person narrative and the narrator Taita can drive you nuts at times by being Superman. He is the caretaker of Lostris, is a doctor, a spy, military advisor, architect, engineer, musician, writer – all rolled into one. Anything significant that happened in Egypt had been either invented or overseen by him. Don’t you wonder if a slave was given that much exposure at all during those times. Of all the people, it is unbelievable that the Pharaoh too would entrust the building of his tomb to him. Seriously, are there no intelligent people except him? The story assumes that Taita is the only clever person and the rest are all plain dumb. But for this fact and the dull parts in the end, the author has done a good job.

The River God does not provide an accurate description of major historical events and inventions in Egypt. The historians, I am sure would turn their noses up on this one for I myself found many parts of the book unbelievable being rather a history-illiterate. But it is pure fiction with Egyptian life and wars serving only as an interesting backdrop. If you are looking for historical accounts on Egypt, this is not the book for you. But Wilbur Smith is a terrific story teller and will keep you hooked for the most part (except the last 100 pages or so). For somebody who’s never read about Egypt, this is a great book that gets you interested in it.


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