Warlock: The Making of a Pharaoh
A Reviewby Adel Murad
One of the most fascinating works of fiction to appear on British and Canadian markets recently is the novel: Warlock by Wilbur Smith, who was described by the Sunday Times as a "master storyteller". It is indeed a story of love, treachery and courage, and is worth reading despite its bulk of nearly 700 pages.
The scene of the momentous events of Warlock took place in Egypt about a thousand years after the building of the Great Pyramids. The Pharaoh of the times, Tamose was building up for war with the Hyksos who took over the north of Egypt. Meanwhile, his young son, Prince Nefer, was out in the desert with his old mentor, Taita, who is the Warlock.
When Pharaoh Tamose was felled down by one of his own Generals, Lord Naja, Taita knew that the Prince will be next, and took it upon himself to protect him, with the help of Isis, until he claims his birthright.
Unknown to Taita, Naja had other plans: he declared himself Regent and marries the two daughters of the slain Pharaoh. He also charges Taita with disposing with the young Prince, so that his claim to the throne is no longer a threat.
Taita, the main character of the novel is a unique character: he knows about medicine, magic and nature, He was educated in the old ways and was in touch with the gods and ancient history. In fact, most Egyptians of the time looked at him as history itself, some saying that lived for more than two hundred years. The regent believed that Taita could give him the secret of eternal life.
The author is brilliant in describing details of events, the customs of ancient Egyptians and the natural phenomena of the time. He lapsed on a few details such as the fauna of parts of the Sinai desert which may have been arable in the ancient times, but certainly not a rain forest. Also the ancient names of Egyptian towns should not include Ismailia and El Arish, which are recent names with documents dating the names only to the 18th century.
However, the author excelled in describing the budding love story between Prince Nefer and Princess Mintaka, and the struggle, against he odds, to reclaim the Double Crown of Egypt by Prince Nefer.
Events of the ancient world were barbaric by today's standard. In battles, thousands were slaughtered without mercy, for sport or as a sacrifice and gift to the gods. The sacking of Babylon and the fights of Prince Nefer against the false Pharaoh are such events when thousands lost their lives.
Ancient battle plans decided the winners and losers, and some clever thought was devised by Wilbur Smith in desert warfare, that would make many modern generals proud.
Reading Warlock transfers the reader into a magic world of ancient Egypt with all its beauty and brutality. The Nile, as ever, is the very life of ancient Egypt. The temples of Isis and Hathor along the banks are rich mysterious places with political influence and power. Bronze, the metal of the times, was part of everyday's life. Swards and Chariots and shadoufs had bronze as their metal component. Gold was the treasure of Pharaoh and the reward for victory in battle.
Food in ancient Egypt was mainly bread, vegetables and beer. Meat was rare and was only eaten in feasts. Good was symbolised by the Royal Falcon, and evil was the cobra snake. Knowledge of medicine was advanced: herbs were used to purify infected wounds, and operations were performed to stitch up deep cuts and extract arrow heads.
The novel has some steamy love scenes and cleverly uses the ancient custom of showing the blood stained cloth of the virgin bride on her wedding night. This custom is still practised in some villages in Egypt to this day.
This novel is worth reading, and is highly rated by this Egyptian reader. I certainly enjoyed reading it from cover to cover, except for the dedication at the beginning which was, inexplicably, to the spirits of Genghis Khan and Omar Khayyam. These characters were from different eras; one was an efficient killer and the other a wine connoisseur. Neither was Egyptian!
Sometimes drinking and writing do not mix well.
Author: Wilbur Smith
Publisher: Pan Macmillan, London
Price: 6.99 Pounds Sterling
Last Updated: June 9th, 2011