In the fourth novel of Wilbur Smith’s Egyptian series, the story of Taita the eunuch continues but delves further into the phenomena of magic.
For seven years the river Nile has ceased to flood, thus failing to nourish and sustain the land of Egypt, causing plague and famine and bringing the country to the edge of disaster. A new religion is emerging, the worship of the one goddess who will restore life to the people if the pantheon of Horus, Isis and Osiris is overturned. The troubled pharaoh Nefer Seti sends Taita to discover the source of the Nile at the end of the known world and, so doing, hopes he will release the waters and rejuvenate the land. During the long years of travel south into unexplored Africa, Taita is reunited with his beloved Queen Lostris in the reincarnated form of Fenn, a foundling child discovered in the malaria-infested swamps on the edge of the jungle. As she grows, he teaches her the esoteric arts to assist him in the fight he knows will come with the malevolent witch who has wreaked these ills on the Upper and Lower Kingdoms.
The Quest is therefore not the story of ancient Egypt as depicted in the earliest books, but a journey into the imagination. Wilbur Smith is a skilful teller of tales, and here he constructs a chronicle of otherworldliness which crosses the line from the true historical novel to a work of fantasy and, so doing, harnesses and recaptures myths out of the mysterious dark continent with which he is so familiar.