(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.
There is no shortage of female leads in YA fiction, but strong female leads (that are not simply butt-kicking cardboard cutouts) are very rare. They’re not nearly as rare as good female villains because there is only one female on my list of favourite villains, but they are rare nonetheless. Here are my favourites in descending order.
1. Lisbeth Salander from the Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson.
What I love most about Lisbeth is that she truly doesn’t care what other people think of her. She’s smart and independent, but she is also deeply flawed. Because of all the trauma in her childhood, she has a hard time learning to trust people and it takes a very long time for her to develop any sort of relationship with Mikael Blomkvist in the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She seems to have Asperger’s Syndrome (or something similar) and she is not afraid to speak her mind. But Lisbeth is not your stereotypical punk girl, however, because she feels insecure about her petite body and falls in love with Mikael, which causes her to sever ties with him throughout The Girl who Played with Fire. She is my favourite heroine because although the book is mostly told through Mikael’s point of view, she steals every scene she is in throughout the trilogy and Stieg Larsson gave her an incredible amount of depth. Continue reading
(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.