I write the review to cover all 5 books in the series, because I think that the series it's self could have been summed up in one large novel instead of 5 seperate books. The books are Ramses The Son of Light Volume 1, The Eternal Temple Volume 2, The Battle of Kadesh Volume 3, The Lady of Abu Simbel Volume 4, and Under the Western Acacia Volume 5. I picked up these books because I was looking for a good summer read and I have an extreme interest in Egyptian history and thought it would be a great blend of the two.
Volume one starts with Ramses as a teenager really and follows his short expolits at the Royal Academy with his friends, Moses, Ahmeni, Asha, and Setau which really sets the scene f the characters for the series. We are also introduced to one of his future wives Islet who is the love of his youth. His father Seti set's Ramses up with a series of tests and trials, while Ramses older brother Shaanar already working in his father's government thinks that he will be the logical replacement for Pharoh once Seti dies. Ramses faces a bull, goes to Nubia to with his father to help stop some province rebellions and comes across a lion cub, and makes friends with an elephant who is seen throughout the books off and on. The lion becomes a life long companion for Ramses as well.
Volume 2 is the beginning of Ramses reign. He appoints his childhood friends to different important positions within his government. Moses builds the new capital of Pi-ramses, as well as completes many projects that Ramses father Seti had started but did not live to see their completion. Also you start to see the development of Moses and his burning desire for something more than being a great builder. Ahmeni becomes the head scribe and Sandal Bearer of Ramses, who never leaves his side for his entire reign and is one of the most devoted of all the friends. Asha having a knack for languages and diplomacy goes into what we would consider a modern day CIA. Setau marries a Nubian and actually prefers snakes and scorpions over politics, but he follows Ramses on all his campaigns and his potions made from snake venom and other ingredients helps the kingdom in so many ways. Ramses also marries the love of his life and greatest queen Nefrateri. Also Ramses builds his eternal temple as well.
Volume 3 is covers the great battle of Kadesh and the problems between the Egytians and the Hittites so much of the story is a back and forth between the two countries. Asha's travels as a under cover spy and diplomat, Moses, going into the desert to see the burning bush and all the intrigue from Shannar that he is still plotting to kill Ramses and take the throne.
Volume 4 the Lady of Abu Simbal about the creation of the temple in Nubia that commemorates Ramses and Nefrateri's love of each other and Egypt and more intrigue and from within his country and more plots to take him off the throne and political issues with the Hitties and the potential signing of the peace treaty (which is the first known of it's kind in history).
Volume 5 is the later part of Ramses reign. Health is failing, Moses has lead the Hebrews from Egypt, and some things have happened to minimize the friends that he has around him. Nefertari is gone and the peace treaty with the Hittites was one that he marries one of their princesses (haven't been able to determine how accurate that is historically) This book covers many years in a single book and over views the multiple Sed Fests that he had at his 30th year of reign and beyond, the growth of the children he had with Islet and Nefertari.
I don't want to be a complete story spoiler. I have done a little research on some of the things that were in the books and what I find is that there are multiple things that are very accurate about Ramses. Of Christian Jacq should know a lot about Egyptian history in traditions, rituals, politics and so forth since that is his field of expertise. So the things regarding the all the building of temples and the Pi-Ramses, and the monuments all across Egypt and Nubia are very accurate. I'm sure that alot of the rites that are celebrated in the temples are pretty accurate to the history that is known. So if you want a look into what the everday lives of the Egyptians was like these are really good books to read.
The books however make Ramses seem like a one women man and for a Pharoh that doesn't seem to be very accurate. Much of what I am reading is that he had a harem of women who bore him some say anywhere from 50 to 100 children, but the books show only Islet bearing him his two legitimate sons as the secondary Royal wife and a daughter from Nefertari who was proclaimed unable to bear more children. I will say that the description of Ramses mother during his reign however looks to be truthful and that while Nefertari replaced her as the Great Royal Wife and Queen, she did many things politically to aid the Royal couple until her death. A Harem in the books is described as a place that women went to study music, arts, and religious practices. Not to say that couldn't be the case, but like many other civilizations in that time, having multiple wives was an accpeted practice.
Than I really have to address the sub story conerning Moses and the Hebrews. Now anyone with any religious background and belief will find this part of the series a little hard to digest. Now I'm not going to say that the Bibile is the only accurate historical re-counting, but at the same time, I think it shows a bias on the Authors part to not include some of the story from the Bible. Moses in the books was just from a privledged family and a friend not a brother to Ramses. There was no competition for Nefertari and there was no major conflicts between the Hebrews and the Egyptians. Whether it's the author's way of just showing the "Egyptian" view of the story or trying to not make a huge issue out of it, I'm not sure which. The plagues are minimal and so is the strife between the Hebrews and the Egytians and limits thier problems to just everyday issues that we all deal with today. In fact Christian writes it to where many of the Hebrews wanted to come back to Egypt. This was an interesting sub plot for me.
We do know that Ramses actually did defeat the Shardana pirates and many of them became assimilated into the Egyptian army and made excellent body guards for the Pharoh and his household, and we do see one loyal Pirate who is Ramses personal body guard. I have googled the brother Shannar and have found no results, the parts regarding his temples and monuments are pretty accurate, and many of his campaigns and traditions are upheld through these books. I guess for me the hardest part about reading a series is when an author spend so much of his space in re-telling people actions from other books. It's a series, and while you could pick up anyone of these books and read them as a stand alone because of the re-caps it can make for some boring reading for someone who started at book one and continues the series. I have read many in my day and I like that a story can progress without having to constantly move backwards to move forewards
While I have read a lot of criticism for the books and the "historical" accuracy, we also have to keep in mind that while Ramses was one of the first Pharoh's that came up with more improved ways of building temples and monuments that would withstand the weather of the dessert a lot of the history has been lost. History was recorded through inscriptions in temples and in paintings, but I'm sure many of the written history on paper was lost. We know that when Cleopatra reigned the Great Library was burned and I'm sure many of Egypts history was lost in that fire which could have contained many important documents from Ramses reign (of course that is speculation but there were many old documents there of all kinds) the books themselves I think make for a good read and gives us a good look into what Ramses life may have been like. If you take a great interest than it would behoove you to do your own research and see what the fact from fiction is, but I don't believe there is enough on Ramses that could give you an acurate detail on his personal life. So just as a painter has to do their best to re-create art so much a writer try and fit the pieces of a persons life together. I for one thourougly enjoyed the series and I became very attached to the characters and to Ramses himself, and I was a little sad to see it end.
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