Tagged: pauline gedge

The Best and Worst of May

I’m going to try something new here.  On the first of every month, I’ll recap my most viewed and least viewed posts in case you’re curious as to what people are actually looking at on my site.  So here are the five best posts last month:

1.  Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

2.  The Hunger Games and Ancient Rome

3.  City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

4.  Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman

5.  Specials by Scott Westerfeld

I’m actually not at all surprised this time, aside from the fact that Flowers for Algernon has surpassed my popular cheat-sheet on allusions for The Hunger Games novel study.  But it’s not really all that surprising since Flowers for Algernon is another popular novel study book.  It probably won’t stay on top in June because school is going out.  Now, here are the worst posts of May (excluding site announcements):

1.  Run Like Jager by Karen Bass

2.  Scroll of Saqqara by Pauline Gedge

3.  The Many Diseases Found in Fiction (YA Fiction in Particular)

4.  The Seven Songs of Merlin by T. A. Barron

5.  Seer of Egypt by Pauline Gedge

Again, not really surprising, but notice that two out of the five books are by Pauline Gedge.  I guess both she and ancient Egypt aren’t nearly as popular as I thought.

The Eagle and the Raven by Pauline Gedge

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

She was the flame-haired Boudicca, Queen of the Britons, whose passion and pride lit up the mysterious world of the ancient Celts.  From the valleys and mountains of still barbaric Britain to the classic grandeur and corruption of Claudius’s Rome, here is the unforgettable drama of a warrior queen torn between love and destiny.

When I read this book I was, of course, expecting it to be about Boudicca.  The blurb and the cover made me expect it to be an epic saga about the warrior queen who led the doomed rebellion against Rome.  Yet out of the 892 pages of my edition of The Eagle and the Raven, I would say that less than 200 of them are actually about Boudicca.  Most of the novel is about Caradoc (usually called Caratacus), the man who led a failed rebellion before she did.  Boudicca’s actual rebellion doesn’t start until the last 100 pages, which requires some creative pace-changing on Pauline Gedge’s part to get through all of the rebellion in such a short amount of page space.

I truly would not recommend this novel.  It’s one of Gedge’s early novels, but it does not match the quality of Child of the Morning at all.  She does not do as well with ancient Britain as she does with ancient Egypt, so I can certainly see why she returned to ancient Egypt after she finished this novel.  The Eagle and the Raven is long and meandering, without any hint of the tension that is present in all of her other novels.  I truly had to struggle to finish this novel, something that I don’t do often, no matter how boring the novel is.

The main characters in The Eagle and the Raven are very well-developed.  Caradoc is believable and grows through the novel and despite her brief appearance, Boudicca develops in an incredibly short amount of time.  However, secondary characters are somewhat neglected, especially Aricia, who had the potential to be a really amazing villain but ended up coming off as your cliché evil seductress.  Venutius just came across as an idiotic, brow-beaten man, but there were obvious attempts to give him depth, which failed spectacularly in my eyes.

My overall impression?  I’m sticking to Pauline Gedge’s Egyptian novels.

I give this book 1.5/5 stars.

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House of Illusions by Pauline Gedge

(Cover picture courtesy of eBookXP.)

All Egyptian soldiers know that when they pass through the village of Aswat they must avoid the woman who tends the temple of Wepwawet.  She rushes at them, begging them to take a manuscript to Pharaoh.  She’s obviously crazy, accusing powerful men of nefarious deeds.  But one young soldier, Kamen, takes pity on the woman and reads the manuscript.  What he reads is so convincing that he believes a terrible injustice has been done.  Without telling the woman of Aswat, he takes the manuscript back to Pi-Ramses and shows it to his general, Paiis.  A chain of events was thus set in motion, a drama of revenge and punishment, miraculous disclosures and unexpected vindication.

In House of Dreams, the beautiful Thu was trained to be the perfect concubine to Pharaoh.  But unbeknownst to her, it was all part of a plot to give her the power and proximity to poison her lover.  Despite the involvement of many highly placed men and women, only Thu’s part of the conspiracy was uncovered.  Unable to sentence his beloved to death, Pharaoh exiled Thu to her home village, Aswat, where for seventeen years she has written down her story and dreamed of retribution.

Unexpectedly, through the actions of Kamen, Thu finds herself in the position to achieve her dream.  She watches as the schemers are brought to justice.  But what of the mastermind of the plot—Hui, the brilliant seer, her teacher and one-time lover?  Thoughts of Hui bring confusion, and as she sees the fulfillment of her dreams of revenge she begins to wonder if the deaths of these conspirators will bring the satisfaction she craves.

Call me cold-hearted, but I actually liked the tragic ending of House of Dreams.  It was realistic and stayed true to the less than happy tone of the novel.  But I guess Pauline Gedge just couldn’t let it end there and wrote House of Illusions to give Thu her revenge.

There is only one word to describe this sequel: cliché.  The plot is more like that of a Hollywood movie and Pauline Gedge had to do some serious fact-changing to write this novel.  After all, the real Thu and her grown son (he was not an infant at the time of the plot) were executed for their parts in the huge conspiracy to kill Ramses III.  Archaeologists speculate that the so-called “Screaming Mummy” (not for the weak of stomach!) was Ramses’ son, Pentawere and that he was executed by drinking poison, which accounts for the gruesome expression that gives this mummy his name.  The real Thu certainly didn’t get a happy ending and I don’t like how much the facts were changed to give her such an ending.

But if you like Hollywood-esque tales of retribution, you’ll love House of Illusions.  All of the people who manipulated Thu into poisoning Pharaoh are finally caught, tried and handed out their gruesome punishments.  Thu learns the fate of the infant son who was taken away from her when she was banished to Aswat and they both live happily ever after.

With a medium-paced plot and the promise of retribution, House of Illusions is a decent enough novel.  I guess that it’s just not for me.

I give this book 3.5/5 stars.

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The Horus Road by Pauline Gedge

(Cover picture courtesy of mcnallyrobinson.com)

Using subtle means of political power and economic control, a foreign power known as the “Rulers of the Upland” has taken over Egypt to plunder its riches and eradicate its religion and culture.  In The Oasis, the stunning second volume of Pauline Gedge’s Lords of the Two Lands trilogy, Kamose, the son of Seqenenra, continued his father’s fight for the freedom of Egypt and his family.

In this riveting final volume of the trilogy, Ahmose, the brother of Kamose, vows to continue the struggle that has been so catastrophic for his family.  He knows that the time has come to lay siege to the Setiu capital, but he realizes that military might alone will not be enough to breach the city’s walls.  He will need no less than a miracle from Amun.  And he cannot imagine how devious Apepa will be in his attempt to rob the Tao family of its chance for total victory.

Okay, we all know that Ahmose ends up liberating Egypt from the Hyksos.  The appealing part of The Horus Road is the journey to victory, not so much the victory itself.  Will Ahmose be able to continue on and finish what Seqenenra and Kamose died for?  Of course he will, but nothing will ever be the same again in the Tao family.

Ahmose is a three dimensional character, but after reading The Oasis, which is in Kamose’s perspective, he seems pale in comparison to his brother.  Yet, throughout the novel, Ahmose steps into the large footprints left by his father and brother and eventually outshines both of them.  Ahmose is a great character, but Pauline Gedge has not neglected secondary characters like the resourceful Ahmose-Nefertari or the tragic Ramose.  She only gives us hints at the great woman Ahmose-Nefertari would become, but it is enough to make her steal every scene that she’s in.

Since the end of the war is drawing near, the plot moves along at a fantastic pace that makes you never want to put this book down.  Cities burn, kings run from danger and betrayal happens on both sides…what more could you ask for in the conclusion to this stunning trilogy?  The ending is not a perfectly happy one, but it is satisfying and the characters stay true to themselves.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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The Oasis by Pauline Gedge

(Cover picture courtesy of Amazon.)

Using subtle means of political power and economic control, a foreign power known as the “Rulers of the Upland” has taken over Egypt to plunder its riches and eradicate its religion and culture.  In The Hippopotamus Marsh, the stunning first volume of Pauline Gedge’s Lords of the Two Lands trilogy, the family of the last true King of Egypt chose to end 200 years of submission to King Apepa, and attempted to resurrect a dynasty.  Seqenenra Tao began a courageous and tragic revolt that almost led to the destruction of his family.

In this thrilling second volume, Seqenenra’s surviving son Kamose refuses an inheritance of failure, and chooses instead to continue his father’s fight for the freedom of Egypt and his family.  He begins his desperate sweep north, collecting fighting men from the loyal towns and villages he passes.  Will his savage brilliance bring him victory of defeat?  And will his acts redeem him or drive him to the brink of madness?

With his father (Seqenenra) and his twin (Si-Amun) dead, you would think Kamose would be ready to give up.  But instead of standing by and watching his family torn apart by the Hyksos king, Apepa, he decides to fight.  After all, he has nothing to lose and everything to gain.  Kamose’s decision to fight irrevocably changes both himself and the fate of Egypt.

Faster paced than her later work and filled with memorable characters, The Oasis is my favourite book in the Lords of the Two Lands trilogy.  Of course I am biased because I love reading about ancient warfare, but Pauline Gedge has still penned a wonderful novel.  Told mostly from the point of view of Kamose, she gives us greater insight into the man behind the ruthless reputation.  His motivations are very believable and his internal struggles with the war are heart-wrenching, which makes him a very three dimensional character.

“This trilogy is dedicated to Prince Kamose, one of the most obscure and misunderstood characters in Egyptian history.  I hope that in some small way I have contributed to his rehabilitation.”

I truly believe that Pauline Gedge has contributed a lot to the rehabilitation of the infamous Kamose Tao, in much the same way Marcus Crassus was rehabilitated in my eyes by Andrew Levkoff.  Her trilogy certainly changed my perception of the great leader and I hope it changes yours as well.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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The King’s Man by Pauline Gedge

(Cover picture courtesy of The Globe and Mail.)

Twelve-year-old Amunhotep III has ascended the throne to become king of the richest empire on earth.  The boy’s mother is regent, and she has brought to court the renowned seer Huy, son of a humble farmer, to act as scribe and counsel to her royal son.  It’s a position of power and responsibility, one that is fraught with intrigue and the lure of corruption.  For it is Huy who controls the treasury, the military, and all construction and taxation—and perhaps most important, it is Huy who chooses the young Pharaoh’s queen.  His actions and premonitions, as well as his legendary past, make him very few friends and a great many enemies…

In The King’s Man, Huy’s rise to power and fame—as chronicled first in The Twice Born and then in Seer of Egypt—reaches its resounding climax.

With her meticulous research and compelling prose, Pauline Gedge transports readers into the ancient and fascinating culture that was Egypt.

I will still like the first book of the King’s Man trilogy the best, but the concluding volume, the aptly named The King’s Man, is still a decent book.  The ending lets readers use their imaginations, but it also gave me a sense of satisfaction because it took the trilogy full circle.  Huy is a confident, powerful old man in this book and that in itself is satisfying because of the drastic change from when he was younger.

The King’s Man is slightly faster paced than the two previous novels, but it is by no means a thriller novel.  If you love long, winding narratives filled with tiny details and political intrigue, you will love this book.  If you will read a book because it has three dimensional characters like I do, you will absolutely love Pauline Gedge’s latest novel.  The characters of Huy, Mutemwia and Amunhotep develop at natural paces that also make sense when you look at what they actually did as historical figures.  The best historical fiction authors are able to assign realistic motivations to historical figures and Pauline Gedge is indeed one of the best.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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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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