Servant of the Secret Fire

Random thoughts on books and life in the reality-based community

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The name I've chosen comes from "Lord of the Rings," when Gandalf faces down the Balrog in the Mines of Moria. My Hebrew name is Esther (which is related to the word for "hidden" or "secret") Serafina (which means "burning"). This seems appropriate because although I don't usually put myself forward, I do care very passionately about a lot of things. Maybe through these blogs I can share some of these passions, as well as less weighty ideas and opinions, with others.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Book Review: Year of the Hyenas

Year of the Hyenas by Brad Geagley ****

When the body of a blind, elderly priestess turns up on the opposite side of the Nile from where she lived, the mayors of the eastern and western halves of Thebes are at loggerheads, each declaring the crime to be in his own jurisdiction. As a compromise, the vizier appoints Semerket, a misanthropic, embittered "follower of Set" who has no respect for anything but the truth, to investigate the death.

In the process Semerket, who is trying to get over the loss of his beloved wife to another man, finds mystery and intrigue enough to drive her from his mind, at least temporarily. The "harem conspiracy" to kill Ramesses III and place his son by his wife Tiya on the throne is a historical fact, and Geagley imaginatively reconstructs the circumstances surrounding it. Interestingly, there is an article in the March/April 2006 issue of Archaeology magazine that discusses the possibilty of an unidentified mummy found in 1886 being the prince who was to have benefited from the conspiracy, and only a couple of months ago I was reading a book called Affairs and Scandals in Ancient Egypt which discussed the rivalry between the two mayors and the organized tomb robbing that is also dealt with in Year of the Hyenas.

In addition to the painstaking historical detail, Geagley also creates interesting, believable and sympathetic characters, from the young Crown Prince whose succession is endangered to Semerket himself, as well as women such as Queen Tiya herself and the promiscuous, frustrated Hunro, whose dream is to leave the tomb-makers' village and set herself up in Thebes.

One of my only criticisms is that someone must have informed Geagley that it was obligatory to have at least one graphic sex scene, which only detracted from the plot and could easily have been deleted.

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