Book review: The New Kingdom

The New Kingdom

Wilbur Smith with Mark Chadbourn

Zaffre, Bonnier Books UK

Review: Karen Watkins

A sorceress, outlaws, pharaohs, slaves, bandits, charioteers and two brothers are all players in a plot of vengeance, warring, power and jealousy.

The story begins in Ancient Egypt with a power struggle in which Hui, the privileged son of the governor of the city of Luhan, his stepmother Ipsetnofret and older brother, the remorseless Qen, seize control of the city.

Ipsetnofret is a sorceress and wants Qen to be in favour. She orchestrates the death of Hui’s father, making it look like Hui is the murderer.

With his sister Ipwet’s help Hui escapes with his life and vows revenge upon his stepmother and brother.

Hui flees as a fugitive and must live by his wits to survive. He is captured by, and lives among, bands of bandits and outlaws, acquiring skills and strength along the way.

He eventually becomes a respected soldier in the Egyptian army but his overarching goal is revenge against his stepmother.

The story follows Hui’s travels among the Hyksos Warriors, the Shrike bandits, the armies of the Red Pretender and finally the Pharoah’s Army.

It takes us to battle grounds, the banks of the Nile, cities and the desert sands and exotic places.

We see the lives of the slaves, the wealthy, the beggars and the royals as we learn of the long-lost customs and beliefs. The descriptions of Egypt and the struggle for power in the different cities are amazing.

From the outset it’s easy to see the differences between the two brothers and how they will be set against each other in this re-imagining of an ancient battle.

From the reader’s note penned by the author, it’s clear that this story is about a secondary character from previous novels Smith set in Egypt.

But this wasn’t a problem and I was caught from the first paragraph although the story dragged on in places.

The story also does not have regular chapters so there were times when I was confused because the characters were at one place then another. And sometimes it felt like there were gaps in the storyline.

Born in Central Africa in 1933, Smith became a full-time writer in 1964 following the success of When the Lion Feeds.

Chadbourn is a screenwriter and Sunday Times best-selling author of historical fiction novels about the Anglo-Saxon warrior Hereward, published under his pseudonym James Wilde. This is the latest novel in the New Egyptian Series.

If you appreciate fiction/fantasy novels involving ancient civilisations this is definitely a book that I would recommend.