An epic historical adventure set in ancient Egypt from the New York Times best-selling legend Stephen King has called the "best historical novelist". One of the world's best-selling authors, Wilbur Smith returns to ancient Egypt in a breathtaking epic that conjures the magic, mystery, romance, and bloody intrigue of a fascinating lost world. Taita, the pharaoh's advisor and hero of Desert God and River God, once again finds himself caught up in a whirlpool of ruthless intrigue that threatens the very foundations of the beloved empire he has pledged his life to protect. Plunged into dangerous and deadly waters more treacherous than the Nile, he must use his intelligence, alchemy, and cunning to protect his pharaoh and keep safe all he loves. Filled with danger, passion, and a thrilling battle for power, Pharaoh will leave fans of George R. R. Martin, Bernard Cornwell, and Dan Brown rejoicing.
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Let me start off by saying that I'm a big fan of Wilbur Smith. It's too bad he didn't write this book. At least, from reading the other reviews on Amazon, that's what people are thinking. This book is so awful. It is not a historical novel, it should be in the fantasy section.
Let me start with the narration. If you have listened to the other books in this "series", sorry, you will be disappointed. There is a different narrator with an English accent. I like English accents. However, when the narrator got to certain "rough" characters, he switched to a strange Eliza Doolittle accent. So distracting. If they are not British, they won't have a stupid Cockney accent!
If you don't know anything about ancient Egypt or don't care to know anything about ancient Egypt, you might enjoy it. The plot is ridiculous, the language is ridiculous, the characters are ridiculous. Who ever wrote this book, did absolutely no research on ancient Egypt. There are so many inconsistencies with the other books. For example, Pharoah Thamose is alive !!! And he has a whole new set of children!! It's like he has a dopple ganger that is living in a parallel universe. Taita is praying to Zues, a Greek god. And Inana (an ancient goddess of Mesopotamia) is speaking to Taita in the form of a bird! There is a forest on the banks of the Nile!!! Cleopatra and Ramses are married!!! What?! AND there are unicorns!! Yes, you read that right!! UNICORNS!!! This is when I stopped listening. Where did you go, Wilbur Smith?? Maybe his dopple ganger wrote the book. It's almost insulting.
Like others who reviewed this book, I can say one thing. NOT written by Wilbur Smith. Wilbur Smith is a genius. I love him as an author. My favorite book of all times is River God. Read it several time and loved it more each time. Taita is an amazing character. He is a genius, an engineer, an artist, a doctor, an inventor, a poet. But he is also a eunuch and a slave. His moral fiber and his integrity are infallible. His capacity to love is boundless and the quality of his love for his friends, his proteges and the women in his life is refined, honorable, respectful and intense.
The Taita in Pharaoh is but a shadow of the Taita of the other books. Even Desert God was pretty much keeping faith with the overall story line and with Taita’s character, although it was not of the caliber of River God, The Seventh Scroll, The Warlock and The Quest. Whoever wrote Pharaoh MAYBE read the previous books crosswise. More probably, he read a summary of the books or someone told him about them. There are so many discrepancies with the other books…
The book starts with Taita getting arrested by Utteric, the new Pharaoh, purported first born of Tamose by a minor wife. He gets thrown in jail and tortured. He is utterly alone and has no special relationships with any of the nobility or any of the family of Tamose, except for a little later in the book when he meets up with Tamose’s true heir, Rameses. I’m sorry, but it makes no sense whatsoever that there was not a single powerful noble to be Taita’s ally. Especially since every one in Egypt hates Utteric. In the prior books, not a single Egyptian is a stranger to the face of the famous Taita. In Pharaoh, he is surrounded by strangers.
Another example is that Hui is a horse man. He taught Taita horsemanship and he is the primary charioteer in the army of Tamose until he defects due to eloping with Tamose’s sister Beckatha. In Pharaoh, when they come back to Egypt to fight Utteric, “Hui leads the flotilla “as usual” while Zaras takes command of the chariots.” What?
Taita is an animal lover and whisperer and becomes outraged at any animal cruelty. At one point in Pharaoh, they make a wild three day dash through the desert and Taita “did not like” that several horses had to perish in the process. Under no circumstances would Taita have abused horses to death in order to make a 3 day journey in short order.
There is no mention of any special relationship of Taita with any animals in Pharaoh while all the other books are strewn with touching animal stories. Oh, I lied. There is one brief mention of a flock of pigeons recognizing his voice. Huh.
His relationship with the Goddess Inana in Desert God is sacred. It is pure love, complete understanding, and mutual respectful communion. In Pharaoh, he is… simply snorky with her and she is just plain naughty and plays games with him.
Oh, and the one of a kind, invincible Blue Sword that Tanus won at the price of his life in River God and that Tamose inherited from him, was gifted to his sister Tahouti when she was married to the Supreme Minos of Crete? There is NO mention of this in Desert God. The entire story line of Desert God is centered around Tahouti and Beckata’s marriage to the Minos. The Blue Sword is never mentioned and conveniently reappears in Pharaoh and by the way, Tamose gave it to Tahouti. In the meantime Tamose dedicates his life to the battlefield against the Hyxsos… without the precious Blue Sword? I think not.
At one point, in Pharaoh, it is said that Taita is hundreds of years old. Not true. He was in his 30s when River God started. River God spans maybe 35-40 years. Tahouti and Beckata were children when River God ended. Tahouti is in her 40s in Pharaoh. This makes Taita… roughly 90 something. Not hundreds of years old. And if I remember correctly, there is a mention of Taita being 90ish in The Warlock (which, as I mentioned earlier, happens after Pharaoh).
The character development of Taita in Pharaoh is bland, vapid, mechanical and a total degrade of Wilbur Smith’s creation of this personality. The character development of the other protagonists (and antagonists for that matter) is also disappointing and shallow.
Throughout all the other books, Taita has an endearing way of being very aware of his own abilities and good looks. In Pharaoh, this is pushed to an insipid extreme and there is probably not a single chapter where Taita does not flaunt his awesomeness.
Mysticism and spirituality are artfully woven into River God, the Warlock and the Quest. In Pharaoh, this is pushed to a trite extreme: there is an evil demi-god driving an enormous chariot led by giant invincible black unicorns. Seriously? And in order to kill him… well… whatever. You’ll see.
In the Warlock, northern Egypt is still under the control of the Hyxsos. Remember that Warlock takes place AFTER Pharaoh (even though it was published many years prior to it). In Pharaoh, the Hyxsos were completely defeated and wiped out in the beginning of the book. No more mention of Hyxsos in Egypt in Pharaoh.
One thing I admire about Wilbur Smith is the character of the women in his books. Female protagonists have character. They are intelligent, athletic, strong and politically influent. The men who love them respect and adore them and treat them with dignity and as equals. Whoever wrote this story “tries” to this imbue attitude… ALMOST… and fail miserably. Ultimately, you can tell that the person who wrote this book has an underlying condescending attitude towards women.
Another discrepancy : Towards the end, Taita is exploring a tunnel under the Nile. He says that he never conceived the possibility of an underwater tunnel. This is not true since an entire book (the Seventh’s Scroll) is dedicated to the excavation of the tomb of Pharaoh Mamose, which Taita designed and constructed during their years of exile south of Egypt into Sudan and Ethiopia. The entrance of this tomb is under the surface of the Nile in order to deter tomb raiders. Again, another example that this person has not even read the other Taita books. Come to think of it, I don’t even think there is any mention of Taita being an eunuch or having been the slave of Queen Lostris throughout Pharaoh.
The narrator is not bad. It was a shock to have a new narrator since Dick Hill did such a fabulous job with River God and Warlock. Mike Grady is British. Kind of funky having a British accent speaking in the voice of Taita, but you get used to it, although I much preferred Dick Hill’s narration.
I am so upset about the way this book was written. I wish Wilbur Smith would re-write it himself. It has potential. He probably wrote the main lines of the story. But he did not write the book.