The Hippopotamus Marsh: 1 (Lords of the Two Lands)

Written by Pauline Gedge
Review by Elizabeth Garner

In ancient Egypt, “Lord of the Two Lands” was one of Pharaoh’s titles, and Pauline Gedge’s new series is the story of how two generations of an Egyptian family of nobles from Thebes fought the Hyksos, the foreigners who had ruled Egypt for a century. In this first volume, the struggle is begun by Seq-en-en-ra, who has been goaded beyond endurance by Apepa, the Hyksos king.

Like all of Gedge’s books based in ancient Egypt — and she has written about Pharaoh Akhenaten in The Twelfth Transforming and Queen Hatshepsut in Child of the Morning, among others — the strength of this current volume is her detailed research and her ability to evoke a land and culture that existed 3600 years ago.

The weakness of The Hippopotamus Marsh is also the failing of her other works, namely the lack of a main individual to whom the reader can be sympathetic. In drawing characters, warts and all, Gedge gives us weaklings and Quislings, but no strong central person we want to cheer on. Seq-en-en-ra is an engaging, sympathetic character, but in parts of the book which lack his presence, the focus of the story blurs. She foreshadows who will be the chief protagonist in the next volume, but has not yet turned him into a man to care about.

Nonetheless, the book is interesting and worthwhile, and the story of the struggle to again have an Egyptian as the Lord of the Two Lands is a monumental one. If you are interested in a good glimpse of what ancient Egypt looked like and how her people lived, by all means give The Hippopotamus Marsh a read.