Graham's Reviews > Ramses: The Son of the Light

Ramses by Christian Jacq
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Jul 20, 10

bookshelves: historical, ancient, egyptian
Read from July 11 to 18, 2010

A few mixed feelings about this book, the first in a five-part series chronicling the life of one of the great Egyptian Pharaohs. For starters, it's an exceptionally easy read. It's been translated from the French in a very simplistic style (even more so than the translations of Valerio Massimo Manfredi) which makes flying through the pages pretty effortless.

Unfortunately, this simple style is also the book's downfall. It's an extremely straightforward and rather shallow novel, occupied with telling rather than showing. A group of half-a-dozen characters interact in various ways and so the story plods on, without changing in pace or tone at any point in the story. There's no action, no tension, just endless here-and-now moments in the lives of those involved.

On the plus side, the book does bring to life the Egyptian era. I loved Jacq's simple, uncluttered descriptions of life in this age and there's a real wealth of detail waiting to be discovered here. The characters, although fairly transparent, are also interesting to read about - Ahmeni, the loyal scribe, Moses, the man with strange ideas, Iset the Fair and the sinister, scheming Shanaar. Ramses himself is a quite engaging chap, too.

Historical accuracy isn't always important here - Homer appears in the story, even though he lived approximately 400 years after the events described here. It's more of a 'what if?' scenario I guess, either that or the dates were more sketchy in the twenty years since this book was researched.

So, I was left with an odd mix of feelings after this. I felt really let down by the ending, which just abruptly cuts off without tying up any of the plot threads (many of which have been building up since the book's opening!), forcing you to go on to the next book to find out what happens. A cliffhanger I could understand, but this isn't that - just a cleaver's chop, as if the five books were written in one whole narrative and then randomly separated.

The text is enjoyable enough to read, and I liked the descriptions and the elements of Egyptian society I learnt about. There's some treachery and conspiracy stuff going on in the background, which also kept me reading, even if it is over-egged. But the book is far from a great - there are too many flaws here for that.
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