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  • Well-researched, occasionally enthralling novel

    Many, many thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an early copy of this text. History was a favourite subject at school so I do enjoy a historical novel every now and then. Unsurprisingly history novels are very much of their time, so while there's always been an abundance of mediaeval set novels from the Victorians onwards, in the latter part of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries, given the interest in political structures and democracy, there has been a veritable flood of Rome-based novels. Novels based in ancient Egypt however have fared much less well, I suspect the reason for that is that white Westerners mostly struggle to find some way of identifying with ancient Egypt. Off the top of my head I can only recall two novels set in Egypt, Ancient Evenings by Norman Mailer, and Sinhue the Egyptian, by Finnish novelist Mika Waltari. I would never recommend Ancient Evenings to my friends, I don't know what Mailer was on when he wrote it, but I wouldn't like to share that either. Sinhue, on the other hand, is a veritable classic and when I read it in high school I could simply not put it down. The Awakening Aten is set in roughly the same time period as Sinhue, as its title indicates, in the time surrounding the reign of the heretic King Akhetaten (in the introduction the author informs us that the Egyptians never themselves used the term Pharaoh). This shared setting is no coincidence, Akhetaten boldly attempted to break with centuries of religious tradition and establish a new more streamlined cult of a single god rather than the confusingly multifarious deities traditionally worshipped in the land of the two Niles, thus the era has an enduring appeal to the modern mind. The story begins with four men awaiting execution for different offences, an artist, Kha, a thief, Pernab and an exile, Yusuf (later Yuya). The story follows the fortunes and misfortunes of the three men once they manage to dodge their fate and their families which become inextricably intertwined with the story of Egypt at that time and that of the Royal family itself in a time of upheaval. This is an interesting novel because it is based very closely on archaeological findings, this has both advantages and disadvantages, the advantages are that you will learn a great deal about the Egypt of that time, tomb painting and architecture, religion, crime and punishment, the priesthood, military campaigns, the Royal family et cetera the disadvantages are that sometimes the book loses itself in description rather than advancing the plot. There are all some sequences of extreme brutality. Overall it was quite a compelling saga, although occasionally the characters sound very cardboardy, but be warned, it ends on a cliffhanger.

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  • Recommended!

    I'm fascinated by the Amarna period and live in the city where the artefacts from the tomb of Kha are. This is means I was more than happy when I read this book. It's well researched, enjoyable and entertaining. I appreciated the fleshed out cast of characters, the historical setting and the plot. I look forward to reading other books by this author. Recommended! Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.

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