The Hippopotamus Marsh by Pauline Gedge

(Cover picture courtesy of Tower.)

Hundreds of years under the oppressive foreign rule of the Setiu have stripped Egypt of its majesty.  Seqenenra Tao, Prince of Weset, the true heir of the double crown, is pained to see his estate deteriorate and longs to restore the royal bloodline to its former glory.  King Apepa’s merciless taunting and humiliating requests are a poor disguise for his contempt of the prideful Tao family and their independence.  Cornered, the Prince of Weset must choose between complete submission to a foreign king or a daring uprising that is doomed to fail.  Seqenenra Tao’s shocking decision puts in motion a series of events that will either destroy his cherished home or resurrect a dynasty and an entire way of life for all of Egypt.

Thus begins the riveting first volume of Pauline Gedge’s Lords of the Two Lands trilogy, in which the history of one of Ancient Egypt’s greatest families comes alive in a remarkably vivid and wonderfully crafted epic.

I discovered Pauline Gedge’s writing on a bitterly cold Christmas Day a few years ago, but the first book I read was her latest work at the time, The Twice Born.  Now that I’ve read almost all of her work, I definitely prefer her earlier works.  They’re much faster paced and the characters are far more interesting.  Her earlier works definitely have less of a literary novel feel and more of an epic historical fiction feel.

The Hippopotamus Marsh is the first book in the Lords of the Two Lands trilogy and it follows the patriarch of the Tao family, Seqenenra.  Seqenenra is a very proud character, yet there is despair lurking beneath the surface because half of his beloved Egypt is under the yoke of the Setiu king Apepa.  But when Apepa takes his ridiculous demands too far, he finally snaps and the rebellion that gave him the epithet ‘the Brave’ began.  If any of you history buffs want to look up Seqenenra (he was, of course, a real historical figure), I recommend that you search with caution—his mummy is not one of the prettier ones.

In addition to fascinating characters like the regal Tetisherti, the brave Seqenenra and the tragically flawed Si-Amun, the plot moves along at a nice pace.  It’s not nearly as fast as that of most mainstream fiction, but it is much faster than Pauline Gedge’s later books.  The Hippopotamus Marsh is a must-read for anyone who loves the mysterious civilization that was ancient Egypt.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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2 comments

  1. krishnafromtoronto

    I liked the review. I personally have not found Pauline’s latest books any slower than her old ones. For instance, her King’s Man Trilogy, in my view is as interesting, but then I recognize it as my personal bias, maybe.
    Mostly, I do agree with your review of this book, it is a good series.
    A good review.

    • Carrie Slager

      Thank you! The King’s Man trilogy is a bit slower in my opinion. But I too am biased in favour of battles because I love ancient warfare. I find Huy’s childhood slow (especially before he’s twelve), but it is enjoyable. Not as enjoyable as the exploits of the Tao family, but nevertheless enjoyable.

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