Friday, December 14, 2012

Pharaoh's Son by Diana Wilder


Reviewed by Victoria Dixon

Pharaoh’s Son is a murder mystery set in ancient the golden years of Ramesses the Great. That concept alone fascinated me enough to want to pick up this book and I’m glad I did.
The crash of Pharaoh’s colossal statue into a throng of worshippers brings the festival of the good god Ptah of Memphis to a sudden, bloody end. Prince Khaemwaset, (Khay) the High Priest, barely escapes being killed. He finds clues in the wreckage, showing that the collapse was deliberately set. Now he is confronted with questions that grow more alarming with every answer he finds as the great Temple of Ptah is rocked by a chilling series of murders. Increasingly entangled in clues that lead to even more mysteries, convinced that the gods themselves are taking a hand in the disaster, he appeals to Pharaoh for help and is sent a powerful ally in his older brother, Amunhorkhepechef (Hori), Egypt’s Crown Prince, whose courage and resourcefulness are surpassed only by his bluntness.
The brothers fight against time as they try to unravel the mystery, knowing that there is more at stake than treasure, and the forfeit is greater than a man’s life. Something great and terrible is stirring, something they must find, hidden deep within the temple, something they must bring into the light before those who walk in darkness take it and turn it to evil.
There were points when I felt that the Egyptian beliefs and Egyptian gods had been replaced by modern spiritual outlooks, but if I’m right, it was still tactfully and even beautifully done, resulting in one of my favorite passages:
“Is all well with you?” Sarenput asked.
“Very well,” Hori replied, closing his eyes again. “I answered, as you advised…” When Sarenput remained companionably silent he continued, “I don’t know why I was so afraid.”
“I think what we fear is the shadow of what we love,” Sarenput said quietly.
Both the conversation and the language struck me forcibly enough, I wanted to share it. There are moments of pure glory in Pharaoh’s Son, especially if you are a person of faith or a seeker of meaning. In the end, I felt that was the book’s strength, rather than a failing.
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