From the Blurb:
As political unrest swirls in the palace of Tutankhamun, Commander Thabit, a Warrior of Amun-Ra, is eager for a stolen moment with his lover, the royal scribe, Akil. Leading his men to the border to face an unfamiliar tribe of renegades, Thabit isn’t sure when he’ll return home to Thebes…or his beloved again.
Review by Alex Beecroft
This is a short read – 29 pages, of which fully10 pages are copyright information, a biography of the author and PHAZE advertising. As a short erotic story it would be unfair to expect too much plot, and if anything this story has the opposite problem. There is more plot than there needs to be:
Thabit is a warrior of Thebes, who is being sent out by the evil vizier to pacify some border tribes. Thabit wants to persuade the tribes to move away by diplomacy, but the evil vizier wants them destroyed. Little, eight year old Tutankhamun daren’t say anything against the evil vizier in public, but sneaks out at night dressed in the clothes of the common people to tell Thabit that he wants his army to just go and ask the tribes nicely to move away. Thabit and his lover Akil then get together for some sex in a bath-house. When Thabit leaves in the morning he looks back to find the young king holding Akil’s hand, and thinks to himself that there is hope that Tut will grow up to get rid of the evil vizier and a new age of justice for all will reign (or something like that.)
I’m not quite sure how to tackle this. On the one hand I like plot, but on the other hand, I like a set up for something to happen to be followed by that thing actually happening. Given the amount of time spent on Thabit’s mission to the border tribes, I’d have liked to see what happened when he got to the border and had to deal with the tribes. Given the ‘omg, the country is in the thrall of an evil vizier‘, I’d have liked to see the protagonists working together to get rid of the evil vizier. It seems odd to have two threads of a story set up, and then to ignore them both in favour of hot bath-house sex.
By all means, lets have the hot bath-house sex, but maybe it just doesn’t need to come wrapped in a set up for a story that never happens.
In addition, there were a couple of other things about the framing story that just didn’t sit right with me. The evil vizier, the virtuous young king who goes among his people in disguise, they seemed too archetypal to be a true reflection of a specific court. Even though Tutankhamun may very well have historically been murdered before he could begin to rule (a fact that makes the ending of this story heavily ironic) the handling of the issues felt fairy-tale, even cliché, rather than historical.
I also felt that the author had tweaked the characters for modern sensibilities, in a way that made it hard for me to believe in them any more.
Would any ancient king really think it was a good idea to just talk to potential invaders? When a culture’s iconography depicts their king standing over a kneeling prisoner, about to bash his brains in, the idea of him using his armies for gentle diplomacy seems hard to swallow. Equally, I could not buy Tutankhamun—the living incarnation of a god—holding hands with a scribe. Even a modern eight year old boy is beginning to think it’s below his dignity to hold hands with adults; would the god-king of Egypt really be more approachable?
It’s quite possible that I’m over-thinking this. At this rate my review will be longer than the story itself, but I feel that in some respects the author shot herself in the foot. The bath-house scene, which seems to me to be the heart of the story, is really very nice. The author has quite a gift with metaphor and description, and the bath house, the steam, the scent of lotuses and myrrh, for the first time really captured that evocative sense of being in another, more romantic country.
As a little sensual vignette, the bath house scene made sense. I wouldn’t say it was the best written sex scene I’ve ever read, but it was very pleasant, and there was no feeling that something was missing or wrong. It was just the envelope which this central sex scene came in that let it down.
I know I’m always asking for more plot, but this could either have done with less, or with being long enough to wrap up the threads of plot that were started at the beginning but never finished.
Having said all that, I did enjoy it, and I would love to see more with this sort of setting. Ancient Egypt is a treasure house of stories just waiting to be opened, and this was like a first glimpse through the wall into a jumble of gold.