Saturday, 1 October 2011

Kim's Review : Ramses - Under the Western Acacia

Halfway through reading Ramses: The Son of the Light, I placed an order for the next 4 books in Christian Jacq's Ramses series. Ramses : Under the Western Acacia is the Fifth book in this series.

This book begins 33 years into Ramses reign. At 55, Ramses has lost a lot of his closest advisors. His mother Tuya, wife Nefertari, dog Wideawake, lion Invincible & his 2 horses who helped him win the battle of Kadesh. Moses one of his 4 closest friends has shepherded all the Hebrews and left Egypt.

After the period of Royal mourning for Nefertari, he raises Iset from the rank of Secondary wife to that of Great Royal wife. His son Kha 37, holds high religious offices. His daughter Meritamon 33, lives the life of a recluse at the temple of Gurnah in Thebes. His son Meneptah 27, is athletic like his father with a taste for command and  Ramses names him Comander in chief.

While Ramses wishes only for peace and for his nation to prosper, Emperor Hattusilis has other ideas. He threatens to break the peace treaty with Egypt unless Ramses marries his daughter Mat-Hor and makes her the Great Royal wife. But Ramses cannot tolerate such an insult against Iset and the law of Ma'at.

To save him from this situation, Iset commits suicide, leaving the position of Great Royal wife open for the Hittite princess. However the ritualists object to a foreigner being privy to all the secret mysteries and rituals that are the responsibility of the Great Royal wife. And here Christian Jacq comes up with a brilliant interpretation of the recorded fact that Ramses married his daughter Meritamon. Jacq explains it as Ramses solution to this dilemma. Pharoah requests is daughter Meritamon to play the symbolic role of an Egyptian Great Royal Wife for all the religious ceremonies.

Uri Teshup is released from house arrest and finds support in the spy Raia and Ofir's brother Malfi in his quest to destroy Ramses. He marries Lady Tanit, the richest widow in Pi-Ramses and hence now has access to money, black magic, Libyan mercenaries and a spy network at his disposal. Inspite of Serramanna's  best efforts, he does manage to cause some major problems for Ramses including the murder of Ahsha.

Clashes follow, Ramses remains supreme until his death.

Important facts and introduction to characters are all repeated, so you can read Under the Western Acacia, even if you havent yet read any of the others in the series. But this volume is difficult to appreciate as a standalone. It does tell a story, but its the end of the story. It would be like buying a mystery novel and reading just the last chapter.

A lot of this volume spends time describing ancient Egyptian costumes, medicines and rituals. While the book is interesting, it does not add as much to the story line as the previous 4 do. A lot of the material seems repetitive and reader fatigue does set in, in this book. Jacq may have been better off condensing the main story lines into an extra 2-3 chapters in the previous book.

Rating: 3/5

Also check out my review of:
Ramses - The Son of the Light
Ramses - The Temple of a Million Years
Ramses - The Battle of Kadesh
Ramses - The Lady of Abu Simbel


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