Top critical review
3 people found this helpful
Wanted to love it
on 7 February 2012
This is a big, bold project; and I want to love it. The writing is good, very descriptive and evocative. Scarab is a likeable, engaging character, and three books in is a great link in the stories of the Amarna (and later) kings. But I can't help thinking aiming to do a whole book per king is a bit ambitious. It does feel as if some of the books are being strung out endlessly and for little purpose. For example, in Scarab Tutankhamen, there are pages and pages about Smenkhkare's rabble of soldiers learning to fight ... then pages and pages of Scarab herself fighting one of the Nubian chiefs. All rousing stuff, but to what purpose? It seems all we're doing is filling in time so Tutankhamen can be old enough for the next bit of the story. I actually found myself skipping much of it. I don't want to give the plot away (and it's worth reading despite my criticisms) but when it comes to the crucial confrontation between Tutankhamen and Smenkhkare, all of this is thrown to the wind. Anyone who knows anything about Egyptian history knows that Tutankhamen has to die aged around 19 - and that Smenkhkare certainly does not outlive him ... but in terms of the plot, I was frustrated by the way these characters seemed to throw themselves away ... allow themselves to be pawns in a bigger game ... without thinking of the bigger picture for Egypt. The author has done a great job up until this point in developing my sympathy for both kings, only for me to be thoroughly irritated with both of them at the end. Such a shame, when I wanted them both to be big and brave - but I ended up thinking they both finished looking (and acting) small and stupid. And then we come to Scarab herself. 3 books spent establishing her as fearless, clever, intuitive etc etc ... and at the last stand in book 3 she seems to offer herself up for capture ... why??? Surely she's proved she's smart enough to outwit Ay and his henchmen - yet after all her battling and cleverness she seems to walk right into the trap. This just felt like an artistic device to get her from brave and fearless sister to Smenkhkare to the mystical goddess-like creature she seems to be being set up as for the next books. I found this annoying and unconvincing.
I like the characters of Paramessu and Horemheb. Also the beginning and end of each book, set in the 1960's and hinting at the link between Scarab and the modern archaeologist, is clever ... it makes me want to know more.
I guess it's a shame for the author that there's been so much publicity over the last year or two about the DNA testing on Tutankhamen's mummy as this makes it clear he's almost certainly Akhenaten's son (or, perhaps Smenkhkare's !!) not Amenhotep III's as this book proposes. But very happy to suspend disbelief on that point. I know I'm being hyper-critical. But actually that's because this author is a cut above others writing about the same subject. He takes an intriguing stance on the characters of the Amarna period ... and I'm willing to go along with him on most of it. So, a mixed review. Please read the novels - they're definitely worth it - but I wanted to be devastated when Smenkhkare died rather than feeling thoroughly put out with him !