House of Dreams by Pauline Gedge

(Cover picture courtesy of Barnes and Noble.)

In the tiny hamlet of Aswat, far to the south of the royal capital, a beautiful young girl wants more than the meagre prospects her village offers.  Determined and resourceful, she is quick to leap upon an opportunity when the great seer Hui, who is also physician to Pharaoh, visits Aswat to commune with its god, Wepwawet.

Taken under Hui’s wing to become a healer, she has no idea of his real plans for her—plans that will bring her close to Pharaoh as his favourite concubine, but will ultimately enmesh her in court intrigue of the most dangerous kind.

House of Dreams is a powerful story of passion and jealousy, rich with details of Ancient Egyptian life.

The last line of this blurb is very, very true.  House of Dreams explores the darker side of the land of the pharaohs, the side that is usually ignored by amateur and even professional historians and archaeologists.  Life was not all beauty and luxury, especially for peasants, which is demonstrated in great detail in this book.  Not only is House of Dreams mostly historically accurate (except in the timing of certain events at the end of the novel), it is well-written and emotionally resonant.

Thu is a highly believable, interesting and sympathetic character.  All she wants in her life is more than what life in her tiny village of Aswat has to offer.  She is an ambitious and intelligent child who, under Hui’s careful supervision, grows into a beautiful, intelligent and ambitious young woman.  These three factors contribute to her rise in the harem of Ramses III.

Filled with palace intrigue, sex and passion, House of Dreams is an unforgettable novel.  I have read all but two of Pauline Gedge’s books (both of them not set in Egypt), but I must say that this is by far her best book.  I would recommend it to anyone, even if they have no interest whatsoever in ancient Egypt because it has such a good plot and well-developed characters.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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