“Warlock” by Wilbur Smith (Thomas Dunne, 2001)

Taita, the Wizard of Ancient Egypt


There is a new magician to be added to the pantheon where the likes of Merlin and Gandalf reside: his name is Taita, a former eunuch slave, who is now the mighty and much-feared warlock of ancient Egypt.

Wilbur Smith, bestselling author from South Africa, brings us his compelling sequel to River God, a novel of Egypt’s past, where a pharaoh and her eunuch slave evaded capture to fight against an evil conspiracy.  The premise originally arose from a papyrus scroll that was brought to Smith, where these two characters were show to have existed at some time in the past.  Smith then set about novelizing this account and creating the amazing world of River God.  He does exactly the same in Warlock, with just as much gusto and skill.

The lovely pharaoh Lostris is now long dead, but her slave, now a warlock – who must be over a hundred years in age – is still revered and feared by many.  A new pharaoh, the young prince Nefer, is about to take the throne, his father having been recently assassinated and the killers remaining unknown.  Since Nefer is too young to take the throne, Naja, the former pharaoh’s right hand man, automatically appoints himself regent of all Egypt.  He hatches a devilish plan, unbeknownst to the prince, where he will unite with the enemy, the Hyksos who control northern Egypt, and get rid of Nefer, and together they will rule, abusing their power in as many ways as they can, meanwhile gaining untold riches.

Wilbur Smith has a writing style that is entirely his own.  His imagery reaches the point of over-description but never passes it, keeping the reader so entrenched in the world, that once they put the book down, they wonder if they are not actually in Egypt during the time of the pharaohs.  Smith takes you through all the emotions, even if you don’t want to tag along for the ride, making you sad then happy by the turning of the page, appalled and shocked then satisfied and appeased.

There is a lot in this book, where any reader can get entirely lost, whether it be in the love between prince Nefer and his Mintaka, or the anxious deception concocted by Naja, or the great battles fronted by Nefer and controlled by Taita.  There is even some magic in there for all you fantasy buffs.  This book, quite simply, has it all.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally published on November 5th 2001.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

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