A Book Spy Review: ‘Pharaoh’ By Wilbur Smith

wilbur-smith-pharoahLies, deceit, betrayal, and a sinister plot to rule the throne fuels the plot for Wilbur Smith’s latest thriller set in Ancient Egypt. 

Taita, a former slave turned advisor to Pharaoh Tamose (and general over his army), bravely serves and protects Egypt. After grueling battles and bloodshed, Taita manages to drive backward the attacking Hyksos, who were advancing from their position south of the Nile. Sadly, there’s little time to celebrate the achievement. 

Pharoah Tamose, who had long been ill, has finally died. Apart from Taita’s emotional duress, as he both admired and respected Tamose, his loss is especially burdensome because of who is in line to become pharaoh after him.

Tamose’s oldest son is a man of poor character. Guilty of some truly awful acts and even worse desires, Utteric deserves no respect, yet he demands it with vigor. Calling himself Utteric Turo the Great, Tamose’s offspring targets Taita, who he sees as a threat, and makes plans to have him dealt with. Likewise, Utteric also fears his brother, the stronger and more natural leader, Rameses. 

As Utteric’s plan takes hold, both Taita and Rameses are imprisoned, where they hatch their own plan for revenge. After a daring escape, Taita and Rameses find refuge in Greece, where they unite with an unexpected ally. King Hurotas, once a high-ranking Egyptian officer under Tamose, now rules over Githion. Hurotas’ falling out with Tamose was the result of his running off with the Pharaoh’s sister, Tehuti, and wedding her in secret. 

Taita, whose battle strategies and fearless leading have kept Egypt safe from outside enemies for many years, realizes that the biggest threat to taking down Egypt comes from within. Utteric Turo the Great must be dealt with, and Taita, keeping his vow to protect the land he loves, partners with Princess Serrena of Sparta (King Hurotas’ daughter) to build an army of allies that will invade Egypt. 

Princess Serrena is a fascinating character and brings added excitement to the story, which is told through Taita’s point of view. Like Taita, Serrena is loyal to her land and is both incredibly smart and incredibly proficient in war. Together, they make a formidable duo, though, sadly, she serves as more of a love interest for another character. With very few relatable elements, Taita does seem very one-dimensional at times. However, he’s so driven by his cause that it’s easy to root for him. 

While the political drama and characters make Pharaoh a page-turning adventure, it’s the action that makes this a must-read for anyone who enjoys historical fiction. Wilbur Smith continues to deliver some of the bloodiest, limb-slicing battle sequences in print today. Imagine the battle scenes featured in the movie Gladiator (starring Russel Crowe) but in written form, and you’re not far off. That said, the story is short on character development and substance. While that won’t bother some, others may struggle to relate to the secondary characters and understand what drives Taita to do what he does. 

Then again, Utteric Turo the Great is a truly hateable antagonist. Readers will both loathe him and long for Taita to return to Egypt so he can deliver a swift, righteous blow to the arrogant new leader. 

With a plot faster than the swiftest chariot in Egypt and pacing as relentless as the mightiest warrior, Pharaoh is an adrenaline-pumping addition to Wilbur Smith’s epic Ancient Egypt series. 

Book Details

Author: Wilbur Smith
Series: Ancient Egypt #6
Pages: 416 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0062276484
Publisher: William Morrow
Release Date: October 18, 2016 (Order Now!)




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  1. I have read all books written by Wilbur Smith, many of them excellent. Pharaoh, however, is his worst ever written. What a disappointment!

  2. I have to agree. I was so disappointed with this latest Egyptian chapter. I have read and re-read all his previous texts from River God through and I feel with Pharaoh, it is almost like he has handed the manuscript to someone else and they have over written it. Dreadful work. I do hope if any more books in the series are written, that the author revisits his previous works in order to capture the richly written and brilliantly detailed material which formed those “hard to put down” tomes. Thumbs down on Pharaoh, Wilbur Smith.

  3. Halfway through ‘Pharaoh’ and now totally confused. In previous books, Tamose is the father of Nefer Seti who, in Warlock, eventually becomes Pharaoh. Now we have two new sons of Tamose (who dies a second time !) and no mention of Nefer. Seems like this book has been written by someone else who has not done his homework. If I’m wrong…please explain ?

  4. I’m part way through reading Pharaoh and it is time for Smith to put down his pen for good. Taita, Smith’s alter ego, is disgustingly conceited much like Smith. I’ve read almost all of Smith’s other books and one other was just as bad and I swore I wouldn’t buy another one after reading it. Pharaoh, I got for Christmas so I am reading it but I will NEVER spent a nickel to buy another of his books. He used to be a great writer but he now seems to think he is a 30 year old stud but forgets he is in an 80 plus year old body. The old body just doesn’t work like it used to, even if you fantasize about all the things you thought you used to be able to do.

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