1. Entertainment

Egypt: The Book of Chaos

by Nick Drake

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

By

Egypt: The Book of Chaos by Nick Drake
© Bourbon Street Books
Bourbon Street Books, 2012

King Tutankhamun is dead and Egypt teeters on the precipice of chaos. Queen Ankhesenamun, his young widow, daughter of Nefertiti, and now wife to the ancient, nearly dead new Pharaoh Ay, must rush to consolidate power through alliances with a powerful enemy or she loses everything. Even her name will be effaced from the monuments and the greatest dynasty in the long history of Egypt will be no more.

Chief Seeker of Mysteries Rahotep of the Medjay, whom we know from Nefertiti and Tutankhamun, Drake's first two novels in this engaging trilogy, is summoned to the palace. He and Nakht, trusted counselor to the Queen and life-long friend to Rahotep, are to be sent on a secret mission to propose an alliance between Egypt and the Hittites in the form of a marriage between one of the young princes and the young queen as soon as Ay is dead.

Meanwhile, General Horemheb continues to increase the threat of rebellion by increasing the size, scope, and power of the army of Egypt, which he commands. Headed by the mysterious Obsidian, an opium cartel has begun to decapitate rivals and consolidate its hold on the opium trade. Rahotep, if he can solve personal demons and keep his family safe, is the key to preventing Egypt's descent into chaos. His task is made doubly difficult because he has been shunted aside by the head of the Medjay and situations are not what they seem to be. He cannot always determine whether one is a friend or foe.
Drake exposes a world of political intrigue swirling around the palace and the entire eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. His descriptions of palace and daily life are rich and revealing. The opening scene in Thebes, for example, draws an even darker picture than the opening chapter of Charles Dickens' Bleak House. References to severed heads, god-forsaken crossroads, cold, moonless, shadows, windows shut, and dark times effectively inform the reader that something is rotten in Egypt. The "gods" we soon learn are changing to gold and power. Who, we wonder, will be destroyed or elevated?

Building on historical fact and reasonable supposition, Drake has created a plausible scenario and supporting characters in each book of the trilogy to illuminate the drama of the 18th Dynasty from the reign of Neferneferauten (and Nefertiti) through Tutankhamun, Ay, and the last of its pharaohs, Horemheb, a brief 15 years out of a 237-year period.

Drake, an accomplished poet, playwright, and screenwriter, has built the tension through all three novels in such a way that each is an act in a play. Each act has its plot, rising tension, and resolution. Each resolution leads to the next act in which the tension rises again and is resolved. The final act, building upon all that has gone before, rises to what appears to be the inescapable and appropriate conclusion. And, yet, Drake throws in a twist that, on further reflection, is even better than the result we thought we saw coming. One hopes that he will return to Egypt in a further novel.

Originally published in 2011, Egypt has now been released as a trade paperback. It is part of a new line of paperback mysteries by HarperCollins under the imprint of Bourbon Street Books. The line, which began publishing in October 2012, has already included Oliver Harris, Lynda La Plante, and Dorothy Sayers. The new year will feature the reissues of four Mary Kay Andrews novels that had been published under real name, Kathy Trocheck.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
  1. About.com
  2. Entertainment
  3. Contemporary Literature
  4. Historical Fiction
  5. Egypt: The Book of Chaos by Nick Drake

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.