Set in Egypt, and following on from River God and The Seventh Scroll, Warlock is the prequel to the new Wilbur Smith hardback The Quest which marks the return of one of the world's finest adventure writers
The reader is plunged into a vividly realised evocation of life in ancient Egypt but one presented with insights into the various characters that infuse a very contemporary feel. In the secluded deserts of North Africa, Taita has spent the years since the death of his adored Queen Lostris studying to become a Warlock, steeped in the arcane arts of the ancient Gods and a master practitioner of magic. Responding to an occult summons, Taita abandons the desert and returns to civilisation, only to find himself at the centre of a massive conflagration in which dark and sinister forces are undermining the throne of Egypt and attempting to destroy the young prince Nefer. Soon, his hard-won skills are tested to the limit.
As in the previous books in the sequence, Smith knows that a strong and passionate agenda on the part of his protagonists will allow the reader to identify with them, despite the gap of centuries. Here, it is family ties: Taita is defending the young prince who is the grandson of his lost Queen, and we are quickly engaged in a narrative that rarely flags over its considerable length. The action set pieces are as impressive as one would expect:
The instant he was within range the Cobra struck again, but Nefer caught the blow on the thick leather folds of the bag. The beast's fangs snagged in the leather and held fast. As Nefer swung back the snake was dragged with him. It was hauled cleanly out of the nest, a writhing, seething ball of coils and polished scales. It thrashed against Nefer's legs, the heavy tail lashing him, hissing fearsomely, clouds of venom spraying from its gaping jaws and dribbling down the leather bag. So great was its weight that Nefer's whole body was shaken violently.--Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Despite being the title character, taita surprisingly takes more of a back seat role. for this I was glad - as a favourite character in river god - his warlocky abilities in this book didn't grip me or allow me to 'believe' in the tale as much. I preferred the action to remain on the 'down to earth' characters. saying that, however, it was refreshing to have taita's presence, as with him, you kinda knew things couldn't go too wrong - especially with those powers...
A big change from river god - is the switch from 1st person narrative to 3rd person. I think I prefer the former option - it adds a lot more personality and opportunity for emotive description. with the tale following many different stories & characters it would have been hard to have a single narrator. Again, a change in the formula from original, possibly taking some of the charm away. However the characterisation, storylines and wilbur's trademark 'romance' remain strong and make up for some of the losses as such. to touch upon the romance, some would describe as too in-your-face and over powering. I disagree. I will say that the encounters seemingly come out of nowhere, are very graphic (in quite a tasteful way), and then disappear just as fast. a number of times whilst reading (as a self-confessed skim reader), I would end a page and question 'did I just read that?' and would have to flick back and re-read just to make sure. its good to be shocked now and again. There are some great character cameos from 1st novel - which I loved even if they were brief. I soon forgot their lack of presence outside the first few chapters as the story gripped me again in true wilbur smith style.
I'm glad I read it, I think the Egyptian series has now brought itself to a well deserved end. For those devotee river god fans - I think its unavoidable to get another taste of taita's tales - although beware, it is a completely different concept / formula from that of #1. still a 'gripper' and a 'hard-to-put-downer' but definitely not river god returns. Any one picking this book up afresh, would suggest getting the background flavour and taste for the series by reading river god & seventh scroll first.
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