As a kid I was a massive Ancient Egypt nerd – I even had a folder in which I’d put a load of information I’d printed off about Ancient Egypt almost as my own encyclopedia of knowledge. I even bookmarked the different sections. I’m not sure what gripped me so much about that era but I found the whole idea fascinating. Something to do with them having different Gods which don’t exist today, the way they mummified their dead, the way they built the pyramids, the vast tombs and treasures they built and wielded. Ancient Egypt almost feels like a fantasy culture – that’s probably why.
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So when I found out Wilbur Smith had a whole series dedicated to Ancient Egypt, I knew, at some point, I would have to sit down and read it. The only two things that were putting me off were the fact that the books are incredibly long and I had to find purchase a physical copy. But once I plucked up the courage, downloaded the audiobook, and purchased the paperback, the journey began. But was it worth it?
River God plot – 4.5/5
River God follows Taita, a slave in Ancient Egypt. He’s a slave his whole life and yet so much happens to him throughout his lifetime. We journey with Taita as he helps his mistress grow up, as he encounters Pharaohs and leaders, as he encounters betrayal and loyalty as he encounters the Hyskos invasion – it’s a life that would fulfill any person, and as the reader, you finish the book feeling like you’ve really read all there is to encounter in Ancient Egypt.
The pacing isn’t the quickest and with the length of the book, I, at points, felt myself losing interest. It’s a book that covers a lot of the smaller details and because it’s spoken from the point of view of Taita, we hear really only of his experiences.
However, as I mentioned above, when you finish the book you really do feel like you’ve been on a journey. So much happens and a good amount of time passes that you see people age, grow up, die and develop. It’s a very mature story that, even if you’re not a fan of Ancient Egypt, I think will bring you satisfaction.
River God characters – 4/5
This is an area that has caused me quite some questioning with River God. I’m a big fan of how I ended up despising some characters, Smith wrote one of the antagonists particularly well and made you feel actually uncomfortable whenever he was in a scene. However, the main protagonist, Taita himself is borderline insufferable. He’s kind and genuine enough but he has quite the ego on him. Is there anything he’s not good at? He’s a surgeon, and astronomer, he can speak to the Gods, he ends up being able to build chariots, and ride horses, he’s one of the quickest runners in Egypt, oh, and he’s also considered the smartest man in Egypt. There’s literally nothing this man isn’t the best at and yet he still remains a slave throughout.
His dedication to his mistress whom he loves his whole life seems very limiting but loyal. I’m not sure whether I enjoyed their relationship or found it useless. I think the final third of the book made me enjoy it, so I’m going to go with that.
River God overall rating – 4.25
River God is a book about Ancient Egypt that takes you on the journey of a lifetime (literally.) The protagonist is worryingly good at everything and doesn’t struggle for confidence but some great supporting characters and kindness and selflessness make this OK. If you’re looking for a book filled with action and events, even if you’re not into Ancient Egypt, I think you’d enjoy River God.