Thank you so much to Zaffre and Bookish First for the opportunity to read yet another new Wilbur Smith novel!
I swear by Smith’s historical fiction, with it’s unapologetic brutality and what I feel is probably a pretty honest portrayal of how things would have been. By all accounts his novels are well researched, plus always an interesting adventure whether the book is read in order or as a standalone.
That said, I will admit to seeing a huge difference in the writing quality of this installment vs. the original Smith novels. If I remember correctly this one fits in sometime around Warlock, or it crunches the events of a few books…. Heck maybe I need a reread
Bookish Quick Facts:
- Title: The New Kingdom
- Series: Ancient Egypt, #7
- Author: Wilbur Smith & Mark Chadbourn
- Publisher & Release: Zaffre, 9/7/21
- Length: 432 pgs
- Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of HistFic and adventure
Here is the description:
In the heart of Egypt,
Under the watchful eye of the Gods,
A new power is rising . . .
In the city of Lahun, Hui lives an enchanted life. The favoured son of a doting father, and ruler-in-waiting of the great city, his fate is set. But behind the beautiful façades a sinister evil is plotting. Craving power and embittered by jealousy, Hui’s stepmother, the great sorceress Ipsetnofret, and Hui’s own brother Qen, orchestrate the downfall of Hui’s father, condemning Hui and seizing power in the city.
Cast out and alone, Hui finds himself a captive of a skilled and powerful army of outlaws, the Hyksos. Determined to seek vengeance for the death of his father and rescue his sister, Ipwet, Hui swears his allegiance to these enemies of Egypt. Through them he learns the art of war, learning how to fight and becoming an envied charioteer.
But soon Hui finds himself in an even greater battle – one for the very heart of Egypt itself. As the pieces fall into place and the Gods themselves join the fray, Hui finds himself fighting alongside the Egyptian General Tanus and renowned Mage, Taita. Now Hui must choose his path – will he be a hero in the old world, or a master in a new kingdom?
Smith saw potential in the Hui character and wrote him a history/spinoff story, possibly series. I totally 100% endorse this decision and can’t wait to see what the next one holds.
While each and every one of Smith’s books can be read as a standalone, the cameos in The New Kingdom are there along with quite a few easter eggs for returning readers. I thought Taita’s eyes would fall off his face from rolling them so much.
Despite solid pacing and excitement throughout, I thought the book didn’t quite deliver on the synopsis. The Ka stone and the Gods were hinted to be a big part of the novel and to avoid spoilers, I will just say that I wanted more from both of those topics.
I wanted more from Hui becoming a charioteer as well, but I believe we will see the fruits of that in the next novel.
I liked watching Hui come so close to losing his true self. He was so sweetly naive until his family’s betrayal. Then he became a thief, a guard, a Little Rat, then a killer, and finally, in an amazing scene, a hardened captain. Throughout the book Fareed, a scout, was a static character but acted as a soul mirror for Hui. A running theme throughout the book was to find out how much humanity Hui retained through all his trials, and in another amazing scene Smith showed that through it all Hui never did lose his true self.
Smith is not an author for inner monologue but Hui is a fairly deep and interesting character.
Tanus and Taita, well, all I can say is go read the other Ancient Egypt books.
Tim Holland wrote a great afterward to provide a broad historical context for the characters, and I almost wish it had been presented as a forward. It makes sense that with thousands of years of peace and prosperity, Egypt felt pretty invincible.
The other thing that makes these books seem so realistic is how well Smith brings the climate, setting, and mood of the populace into play: whether in a baking desert, war-torn city, refugee camp, or Pharaoh’s palace, I feel like I can picture those sun burnt dripping slaves and sandstorm, midden heaps and incense, terrified citizens… For historical fiction and immersion these things always feel important to me
The only other thing I would have asked for was either section breaks or dates, because it was very hard to tell how much time was passing between major events and I feel like that information would have been helpful to the story.
Overall, not Smith’s best but another very solid book. He is one of my auto buy authors. Definitely and always recommend for HistFic readers and adventure lovers.