The New Kingdom

By Wilbur Smith

The New Kingdom, a novel by Wilbur Smith
Book details

Historic fiction is often written about exciting characters who have full and adventurous lives. There is no point following someone who's past role in Egyptian culture was to turn the compost heaps four times a day. You want to follow the likes of Hui who goes from middle class to thief, to accused murderer, to outlaw, to barbarian, to loyal Pharoah solider – and all the things in between. It can be hard to take in how much life Hui crams into Wilbur Smith and Mark Chadbourn’s The New Kingdom and this is only book 1! 

When Hui sets out to steal an artefact delivered by the Gods with his brother and a childhood friend, he hopes that it will change his life and the fortunes of his family. It does, but not in the way he hoped. Hui is accused of murder and before he is executed, he must flee his home city. The following years will see him travel across Egypt as a thief, outlaw, barbarian, and warrior. His one loyalty is to himself. He will return to avenge those that wronged him. 

Smith is a name to be reckoned with when it comes to historic fiction and Kingdom sees him return to the setting of Ancient Egypt. The tale of Hui runs parallel to some of his other books but can be read on its own. I can attest that this is true having not read the previous books. Kingdom stands on its own and does need any prior knowledge of Smith’s work.  

Chadbourn will also be a familiar name to many SF Book Review readers as he has had several fantastic stories out and his influence is felt within the pages of this book. Kingdom is historic fiction at its cleanest. The idea of so much happening to one man in such a brief time is perverse, but it makes for a cracking novel. The pace pounds along as Hui finds himself in life threatening situation after life threatening situation. Hui must have found himself inched away from execution at least four times in the book. 

It would be boring to follow a character who does nothing, so having Hui jump from group to group makes for exciting reading. The balance to slow the book down does not come from the historic elements, but the fantastical. The Gods play a role in Kingdom, the belief in them is strong. However, are there miracles and magic, or is it smoke and mirrors? Hui finds himself going up against the powerful followers of Set. The reader is never clear whether the God is affecting things, or the followers are just feverishly following their own plans. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Kingdom and read the entire novel in just two days as the pages kept turning. You always want to see how Hui gets himself out of his current predicament. A recent trend in historic fiction has been to draw a tale out over several outings, it is refreshing to read a book that has so much pace. Hui’s tale will be told within three or four books, and it will be great fun riding along. This is a novel for historic fiction fans who like their action fast with a murmur of magical mystery on the side. 

Written on 16th October 2021 by .

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