Inge H. Borg’s Khamsin, The Devil Wind of the Nile is a sprawling tale set in ancient Egypt before the epoch of pyramid building began. The heart of the conflict lies between two men, prince-turned-priest Ramose and Ebu al-Saqqara, the ambitious vizier to King Aha. Each knows powerful secrets that could destabilize the regime.
As the novel opens, a clash between Egypt and its neighbors looms. General Ali el-Barum receives word of a gold mine along the disputed border. Barum sends a message to his superior Grand General Makari, via the royal archer Pase. The chief priest Rahetep also learns of the same rich source and dispatches his aide, Tasar to another venerated high priest, Badar. Both couriers accomplish their goal, but their varied paths lead to fateful meetings and intended consequences. The vizier al-Saqqara intercepts Pase, who reaches the capital half-dead. Tasar’s arrival offers a rare glimpse into Aha’s royal household through the heiress Nefret, the king’s headstrong, beautiful daughter. Ramose watches over the young princess, orphaned by her mother in childbirth and by an easily manipulated king. On the pretext of initiating Nefret into her future position, Ramose prepares to confront enemies outside and within Egypt, while al-Saqqara attempts to secure his future. A slew of advisors, retainers and servants, each with their own loyalties and weaknesses, have roles to play in the two men’s schemes.
In his dual position as vizier and royal quartermaster, the chief minister al-Saqqara’s wants to rule Egypt in Aha’s place. He can dare claim an unwilling Nefret to secure his tenuous hold or extend his influence over her malleable brother and rival, Dubar. Ramose intends to protect the willful Nefret from herself and the vizier’s aims. The intricate maneuvers between the Ramose and al-Saqqara, as each tries to outwit the other, are engrossing. The novel’s other great strength lies is in the details of Egyptian life. The author shows great skill in portraying an ancient time. Every description feels authentic and transports readers to the period. While to her credit, the author provided detailed personalities and full backgrounds for each figure, at times the large cast of characters slowed the pace and generated some distracting POV switches.