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Tutankhamun living under shadows

TutankhamunEgypt, 1324 BC

‘For a world with so much sun, we live in a dark place, in a dark time…’

For Rahotep, chief detective of the Thebes division, life is about to get very complicated. On the shadowy city streets the cryptically mutilated bodies of several young people are discovered. These brutal acts are destablising a ruthless regime already made precarious by corruption, dissent, the strain of distant wars and the appalling divide between rich and poor. 

On the golden throne, Tutankhamun (meaning: the living image of God Amun) has inherited an empire that should be at the height of power and glory. But the King, just 18, and his brilliant young Queen are faced with the political conspiracies of the Court, and a bitter struggle for ascendancy. He must reassert the authority of his famous dynasty. And when his own security is threatened he needs an outsider he can trust to track down the traitor. Already perplexed by the ongoing murder investigation, Rahotep received a mysterious invitation to the labyrinthine halls of the Royal Palace. But what he discovers at the dark heart of power will change his life, and put everything he loves at risk… 

I have been fascinated with archaeological travel, visited many ancients sites in China, Angkor Wat, Thailand and Morocco and Egypt remain at the top of my list of country to visit in the near future. I am repulsed at the thought of visiting an ancient site without knowing the history of the places I visited. I have always wanted to read about Egyptian history, but couldn’t quite muster the patience to read a historical textbook, so I intend to pick up fictional work related to the true accounts which is what this book aims to do. I watched documentaries on Nefertiti and Tutankhamun in National Geographic channel a few years ago, the well-preserved mummified body of Tutankhamun was speculated to die at a young age, had a limp and had a concussion at his lower brain. His lineage unclear, the cause of his death shrouded with mysteries. See : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tutankhamun 

King Amenhotep IV / Akhenaten has two wives, Kiya who borne Tutankhamun, and his beloved Queen Nefertiti who borne Ankhesenamun. Tutankhamun reigned Egypt at 9-year-old with his wife and half-sister Ankhesenamun. The real power lies with Regent, Ay who would be the apparent successor to the throne. The teenaged King and Queen was taunted by items delivered to their Royal quarters aim to instill fears and threats of his imminent coronation. Items such as the annihilation of the signs of the sun and erased the king’s name from scribe and voodoo dolls struck with pins etc. Ankhesenamun summoned Rahotep in to investigate such threat, at the same time Rahotep and assistant Khety is kept busy with murders of a young men and women in gruesome manner, with the last victim traumatised and barely alive providing a possible lead to the murderer. 

So as history goes, Tutankhamun died young. The writer chosen a less dramatic hypothesis of Tutankhamun’s death. While Rahotep chased after the trail of the murderer and power struggle between Ay and Horemheb ensued after the young King died, little did he know he would uncover the conspiracies and dark secrets within the walls of the royal palace,  and placed his own life and his family’s life in peril.

My favourite few words of  Rahotep’s wisdom injected intermittently between the pages:

It is often seems to me that all troubles and all crimes begin with families. Even in our ancient stories, it is jealous brothers who kill each other, enraged wives who castrate their husbands and furious children who avenge themselves of their culpable or innocent parents. and so it is in marriage. We have a good marriage. If I have disappointed Tanafert by my lack of worldly success then she has disguised it well. But I know there are half-understood things between us that we keep in silence, as if words would somehow make them too painfully real. Perhaps it is so between all couples whose relations have survived for many years; the unnoticed influences of habit, and the perils of domestic tedium. Even the familiarity with each other’s bodies, once so obsessively desired, leads to an undeniable hunger for surprise of a stranger’s beauty. The beauty and the contempt of familiarity.

My middle daughter quickly told me what was on her mind.
‘I’m not sure I will get married.’
‘Why not?’
‘Because I can write and think, and I can look after myself.’
‘But that doesn’t mean you won’t meet someone who you can love ….’
‘But why would you choose to love just one person when there are so many people?’
I stroked her hair.
‘Because love is a decision, my darling.’
She mulled this over. ‘Everyone says they can’t help themselves.’
‘That’s falling in love. True love itself is different.’
‘Why is it different?’ At the this point, Tanefert returrned with the jug of water, poured out four cups, waiting for my answer.
‘Falling in love is romantic and wonderful, and it’s a very special time. Tha’ts when it feels like nothing else matters. But living in love, year after year, in true partnership, that’s the real gift.’

When men speak of moral purity, what they mean is, they have hidden their moral impurities beneath an illusion of virtue. 

I enjoyed the way in which an insignificant short reign over three thousand years ago has been pieced together by Drake and many other people into elaborate stories such as this one, replete with theories as to what happened and why. I was drawn by Drake’s descriptions of the Karnak Temple and the inner chambers of the royal palace and how life in ancient Egypt must have been. It grips you with the suspense of a murder mystery set in a different era. I will definitely read his other book of Nefertiti and hopefully he writes more books about Egypt mysteries to fulfil my quest to know everything about Egyptian ancient past. Fun read, not heavy, but if you are looking for substance and in-depth understanding of ancient Egyptian ritual, signs and symbols, you are better off reading an Egyptian history textbook.

The writer: 

Nick DrakeNick Drake was born in 1961. Nick Drake is a screenwriter, novelist and award-winning poet. Before becoming a full-time writer, he worked in theatre and film for over a decade and, as Head of Development at Intermedia Films, he was involved in the production of many films including Sliding Doors and Iris. He is the author of one previous novel featuring Rahotep, Nefertiti: The Book of the Dead, which was shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association best Historical Crime Novel Award. He is also a screenwriter and award-wining poet. He wrote the screenplay for Romulus, My Father, starring Eric Bana, which won Best Film at the Australian Film Awards 2007.

Verdict:  3.5/5
What I like most about the book: It painted a very vivid image of ancient Egypt, you feel as if you are walking with Rahotep through the ceremonial rites, the labyrinthine passage in the Royal palace and secret passage and great columns of the temples. 

What I like least about the book: The plot is straightforward, quite predictable.


About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.


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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City

JoV's favorite books »
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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