Egypt in January 2009, but didn't get around to reading it until last month. Once I was halfway through this book, I immediately placed an order for the next 4 books in this series and just read them all straight through.
Other than Tutankhamun, Ramses II is THE Pharoah who has captured the imagination of the world. He left his mark on practically every Pharaonic temple on a visitors itinerary in Egypt today. But he is also dogged by controversy. While every Egyptian temple displays large portraits and reliefs of his victory over the Hittites at the battle of Kadesh, the discovery of the agreement between the Egyptians and the Hitties in modern day Turkey, contradicts that premise.
Within Egypt, it is believed that Ramses' Father - Seti, was the one who fought all the hard battles, secured her borders, thus granting a period of unprecedented peace for Ramses II to rule in, which gave him the time, labour and resources to construct magnificient temples.
Christian Jacq has weaved a story encompassing the major documented highlights of Ramses life, but spun a different story out of them, contrary to a lot of popular beliefs. And that is what makes this entire series even more interesting.
The Son of Light begins with a 14 year old Ramses facing a test of courage set for him by his father Seti. His brother Shaanar is the Prince Regent and is being groomed as Seti's successor and Ramses is still studying at the Royal Academy. His 4 best friends are Ahmeni - a diligent student and scribe, Setau - a lad fascinated with snakes, their venom and their medicinal value, Ahsha - a cultured and smooth talker who dreams of becoming a diplomat and Moses - who knows he wants to do great things, but is not yet sure of his path.
Over the book Seti sets Ramses multiple tasks to test different aspects of his personality and ethics and Ramses feels that he is being groomed to be the next Pharoah, but Seti's intentions aren't quite clear until the end. Ramses faces multiple death threats but emerges stronger from each of them gathering "wide awake" a yellow dog and "Invincible" a mighty lion whom he and Setau rescue into his closest circle.
His inseperable bond with Invincible, and his mastery over a bull elephant, are exploits that are repeated across the land and the common people soon begin to believe that he is blessed by the Gods. However Shaanars smooth talking and clear focus on diplomacy and trade makes him better liked by the governing classes than the unpredictable, hot bloooded Ramses.
However by the time of his death at the end of this book, Seti makes it quite clear that it is Ramses whom he has chosen as his successor, thereby sidelining his older son Shaanar.
The tale woven by Christian Jacq is fascinating. Historical fiction is one of the most difficult genres to master. Everyone knows the ending of the story, so how an author tells the tale is of supreme importance. Can he/she bring enough of a fresh perspective to the story? Can they tell a tale that is intriguing, yet stays true to the most important facts? Can they hold the readers attention? In Jacq's case, the answer to all 3 questions is a resounding yes.
I would love to see this series made into a movie and I know it will be so much more fascinating than the Mummy or the Scorpion king. Can't imagine why no one has gotten around to it yet.