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Book Review: River God

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Nicole Tracy

Literary Columnist

The story follows follows
the fate of the Egyptian Kingdom
through the eyes of
Taita, a multi-talented and
highly skilled eunuch slave.
Taita is owned by Lord
Intef and primarily looks
after his daughter, Lostris,
but also plays a large role
in the day-to-day running of
Lord Intef’s estate.
The Pharaoh of Egypt
is without a male heir, and
Taita inadvertently causes
Pharaoh to take an interest
in Lostris.
Lostris meanwhile is in
love with the soldier Tanus,
who unbeknownst to her is
hated by her father.
Eventually Pharaoh marries
Lostris and her father,
Lord Intef, reluctantly gives
Taita to her as a wedding gift.
Meanwhile, Tanus has angered
Pharaoh by speaking
bluntly about the troubles
Egypt is in, particularily by
pointing out most prominently
the growing bandit
threat which terrorizes all
who travel outside of the
major cities.
Pharaoh condemns him
to death for his actions, but
is convinced to allow Tanus
to redeem himself by attempting
to eliminate all the
bandits from Egypt within
two years.
Since his sentence is revealed
on the last day of
the festival of Osiris, he is
to return on that day of the
next festival with his task
complete or face death by
strangulation.
Tanus, with the help of Taita,
hunts down and captures
the leaders of the Shrike bandits.
On presenting them to
Pharaoh, it is revealed that
their leader is Lord Intef.
Tanus has his death sentence
lifted, but Intef manages
to escape before he can
be punished for his crimes.
After the sentence is announced
a storm sweeps
through allowing Lostris and
Tanus time to be secretly
alone together.
During this time Lostris
conceives Tanus’ first born,
and before the secret can be
discovered Taita arranges
for her to resume her wifely
duties to Pharaoh.
When the child is born
he is named Memnon and
claimed by the Pharaoh as
his own, and his true paternity
is known only to Lostris,
Taita, and Tanus.
A new threat to the kingdom
emerges — the warlike
Hyksos. Equipped with the
horse and chariot, as well
as a superior recurved bow,
their technological superiority
is far greater than the
Egyptian army’s.
The Pharaoh is killed,
forcing a majority of the
Egyptian nobility (including
Lostris, Tanus, and Taita)
to flee Egypt by heading up
the Nile with the remaining
army.
During their exile Lostris
gives birth to two more of
Tanus’ children, both daughters,
but as their relationship
has been a secret Taita creates
a cover story where
the ghost of Pharaoh sires
the child.
During their period in
exile, they regain their technical
superiority — Taita replicates
and improves both
the chariots and bows he
has seen used to such great
effect on the battlefield.
While searching for a
suitable burying place for
Pharaoh’s body, Taita is
taken captive by one of the
Ethiopian chieftains of the
area — the brutal Arkoun.
While in captivity, Taita
becomes close friends with
Masara, a fellow captive and
the daughter of one of the
rival chieftains.
Taita eventually escapes
captivity due to a freak flooding,
finds the father of Masara,
and strikes a deal with
him to rescue Masara. With
the help of Tanus, Memnon,
and the Egyptian army, Arkoun
is defeated.
Tanus is mortally wounded
during the battle and dies.
Masara and Memnon fall in
love and become married,
with a wedding gift of several
thousand horses which
further boost the Egyptian
army.
Led by their new Pharaoh
Tamose (formerly Prince
Memnon), they return to
Egypt.
With their new-found
weaponry and tactics, they
defeat the Hyksos invaders
and regain the upper kingdom
of Egypt from Elephantine
to Thebes.
The character of Taita,
the brilliant eunuch slave
who narrates the story, is
an amazingly well written
creation.
Larger than life while being,
as a eunuch, somewhat
removed from the passions
that move many of the characters
in the book, he is the
perfect spectator/participant.
He sees and understands
everything and his
inventions and interventions
move the plot in unexpected
ways. The book meanders
a bit because it follows his
whole life and its many turnings,
but it is fascinating at
every juncture.
If one is looking for a story
that is an epic adventure, but
has elements of drama and
romance, River God has it
covered.
Author Smith’s masterful
use of descriptive language
draws one into the story, and
the story is one that is hard
to put down.
River God is available at
the Howard County Public
Library. Copies are limited,
so if it is unavailable, ask at
the front desk to be put on a waiting list for it.