book reviews

Book Review: Desert God

Desert God: A Novel of Ancient Egypt

by Wilbur Smith

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

Received for review from Amazon Vine

Prolific author Wilbur Smith’s latest novel, “Desert God: A Novel of Ancient Egypt(William Morrow 2014), is the third in his series about Taita, former-slave turned adviser to a Pharaoh. The novel opens as a land-locked Egypt fights for survival against the barbarian Hyksos. Through this first person account, we see how Taita analyzes threats, assesses options, and crafts solutions that invariably work out. Even the surprise ending is a win for Taita as he masterfully turns disaster into success.

I love historic fiction, done well, it’s a perfect blend of a plot-driven ‘history mystery’ and a peek into how people led their lives long before machines did it for us. With dozens of books to his credit, Wilbur Smith is a master if this genre. His voice is forthright and clear with a strong sense of place and time.

The main character in “Desert God”, Taita, is fascinating. He is full of confidence, brilliant, and an extraordinary problem solver. When he is working on a problem, the story becomes a procedural on how he reaches  brilliant solutions. Taita is like the heroes I love in thrillers, but lacking the flaws, insecurities, and broken dreams that usually accompany them. Despite this, Taita has an objective acceptance of his superior skills–

“It always surprises me how a few kind words from me are treasured by even the lowliest members of our entourage. One often forgets how one is revered by others less talented than oneself.”

“I often think that I am too forbearing with those who are not as sharp-witted as I am.”

“Modesty usually prevents me from employing the word beautiful when describing myself, but honesty requires me to do so in this instance.”

While he lacks humility, he also avoids hubris.

Noticeably missing in this story was an inciting incident–a crisis around which the plot revolved. The first third of “Desert God” could have been a simple summary of the Egyptian dynasty tightly constrained to Taita’s version of a noble life. Because of his super-human skills (a trait that is explained toward the end of the book), he is not a particularly reliable narrator for an historic novel. It took at least a third of this four hundred-plus page book to find the plot. I won’t tell you what it is, but it surprised me.

Wilbur Smith, with over 125 books to his resume and 125 million fans in 26 languages, is a good find. Overall, “Desert God” is a good mix of history and plotting. I never felt like it was too narrative or pedantic. I’ve already ordered the two prequels to Desert God (which Amazon reviews say are better than this one–I can’t wait).

For more detail on Wilbur Smith’s many series, check out Lilolia’s post here. For a review of an earlier Taita book, check out BooksPlusLife’s review.

If you would like to purchase this book from Amazon, click the link below:

 Desert God: A Novel of Ancient Egypt

More historic novels:

Killing Lincoln

Killer Angels

Gates of Fire

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of dozens of books on integrating tech into education, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics.

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23 thoughts on “Book Review: Desert God

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  10. I’ve read all the books in his Egyptian series and although River God will stay my favorite, I enjoyed Desert God. I agree with your point that there was not a single inciting incident or crisis which he often uses in other books to leverage the plot to a new level. After The Quest i was surprised to see no “magic”, although you could say he touched the topic when the origin of his never ending list of talents are explained.


  11. I’m embarrassed I didn’t even know about this author. Or maybe I did if he wrote 125 books and I just didn’t realize it. Are there any other books of his you’d suggest? (Perhaps some with a few less pages:)


    • I was surprised, too. I don’t read a lot of historic fiction, but enough that I should have heard of him. If this hadn’t been offered to me as one of my review gigs, I never would have enriched my life. Now I bought two more of his books.


  12. I’ve tried reading Wilbur Smith’s books. I have a hard time getting through them. I’m not sure if it’s that he writes in scenes and not chapters or if the stories are just too heady for me.


  13. I haven’t read any Wilbur Smith tomes but I’ve shelved plenty of them at the used bookstore where I volunteer. They keep being republished so it’s hard to tell if they are new or old without checking inside. One of these days, I’ll need to check him out. 😀


  14. I’ve loved all Wilbur Smith’s novels …he has a sure touch in story telling with all the elements of love hate lust betrayal and more. I haven’t yet read “Desert God” …
    Have `a great weekend!


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