First published in 1993 by MacMillan, The River God by Wilbur Smith is one of those books you have to pick up at least once in your lifetime. Add it to your bucket list, you will not be disappointed.
The first of four books in the Egyptian genre, The River God introduces us to Taita, a eunuch slave devoted to Lostris. The book is set in troubled Ancient Egyptian times approximately 2000 BC.
Endearing, charming and thoroughly magical the book draws you in from the outset and, written in “first person” through the eyes of Taita, you gain a certain affinity with the eunuch slave – so much so you’ll find it hard to put the book down.
We are introduced to troubled times, Egypt is at war. No stranger to civil wars the North and South are divided. The North ruled by usurpers and the South in complete poverty.
Taita was an incredibly talented and handsome man; a poet, a painter, grand architect, doctor and politician to name but a few. In fact it’s probably quicker and easier to list what he couldn’t do! He is incredibly devoted to his mistress Lostris; you could argue that it bordered on the unhealthy. The adoration was largely made possibly because he was a Eunuch – had it not been for this “trivial” point, the relationship would not have been possible.
Egypt has had it her own way for far too long. The Egyptians were unprepared for an invasion, an outside enemy and after years of civil war they were caught unaware. The Hyksos invasion changed all that. Egypt’s weaknesses were exposed by a military might that was so far ahead in technical terms it made for an uneven match.
Along with the horses and chariots, the Hyksos had the skilled drivers to take advantage of the Egyptian army bereft of the wheel. They found the going tough and only had one option – to retreat.
Adopting this ancient strategy, hundreds of thousands of soldiers, slaves and common folk made their way along the Nile to try and gain the upper hand, to counter attack from an advantageous position. Although impossible to imagine such a journey, Smith’s descriptive powers lend itself beautifully to the emotion of the dangerous journey.
With each problem, came a solution. Taita was a skilled engineer and it was he that solved the obstacles thrust upon them. If I had to make a criticism (and believe me this is a criticism made at gunpoint!) the book is selfish. It’s all about Taita – but to counteract this minute criticism that’s what makes it so endearing!
Intense loyalty, honour, betrayal, sadness and love – The River God has it all. A literary classic and a bestseller in over 10 countries, the highly acclaimed book will not leave you disappointed. Its descriptive powers are both magical and colourful and will certainly leave you wanting more as you experience a range of powerful emotions. Fortunately as the book was written in the 90’s, Wilbur Smith has added a further three books to this series.
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