I have been lamenting the dearth of historical fiction not set in England and/or the Regency period, so I was naturally intrigued by the good reviews of Veronica Scott’s romance novels set in ancient Egypt around 1500 BC. When the second one, Warrior of the Nile became available via NetGalley, I snapped it up to see if I would enjoy a non-traditional historical romance.
Did I! I loved the premise of her The Gods of Egypt series – that Egyptian gods had the ability to become corporeal and interact with humans – and it lent a wonderful paranormal element to an already rich historical setting. In Warrior of the Nile, two people find themselves pawns caught in the machinations of the gods.
Khenet is the adopted brother of Pharaoh who reluctantly asks him for a favor. A region which previously harbored a usurper has suspicious reports of the nomarch (leader) engaging in black magic. The priests and priestesses of the goddess Nepthys have notified Pharaoh that she will be providing a bride for this man, a bride born dedicated to Nepthys’ service who will be sacrificed when the goddess takes over her body, killing the evil magician and shutting out the influence of destructive gods who would threaten Egypt. Part of her instruction includes the demand that only a single man to accompany the doomed bride on the dangerous journey to her husband, and the guard must be a man who means something to Pharaoh.
Khenet and his brother have faced enough danger and battles to realize that this is actually a dangerous trap, one Khenet might not return from. As an adopted sibling to the most powerful man in Egypt, Khenet has nevertheless felt caught between two worlds. More a rough soldier than a noble, he has had negative experiences with the court beauties who pursue him, preferring the no-strings-attached relationships with tavern wenches and dancing girls he can leave the next morning. Accompanying a blubbering aristocrat to her death sounds worse than battle, particularly if he might die in the attempt, yet his loyalty to his brother and his desire to help Egypt outweighs any personal discomfort.
Lady Tiya has always known of the dagger hanging over her head. Her family is descended from the goddess Nepthys, with many of its members choosing to go into her service. But she has been cursed with an extra layer of obligation, as the birthmark on her forearm and over her breast is an inherited one indicating that the goddess can take over body with ease. When she is called along with her cousins to the temple to be chosen, it’s an easy decision to volunteer – the other candidates are a little girl and Tiya’s weeping cousin who has just been betrothed. With her father’s remarriage, Tiya is being pressured by her stepmother to marry and Tiya would rather escape the match, even if it means being used by a goddess who might not care about hurting Tiya.
Tiya’s instincts are proven correct and she’s more than a little dismayed to discover the nature of her mission and more concerned that the handsome, brave soldier who is to guard her on the journey is also doomed. They slowly begin to get to know one another, each recognizing the other’s courage and intelligence, and cursing the fate that would bring them into each other’s lives just in time to take them away. Tiya calls upon another goddess for assistance while Khenet wrestles with the nightmares of his lost village, reemphasizing to him that he is the last of his people and burdened with an incomprehensible prophecy. Yet that prophecy might just offer the one loophole that could have Tiya and Khenet saving Egypt while escaping with their lives, although it might bring the wrath of a powerful goddess upon their heads.
I loved both characters and while the text is peppered with references to Egyptian religion and deities it’s nothing the reader doesn’t adjust to within a couple of chapters. While Khenet and Tiya have plenty of sexual tension, there really is only one tender, wonderful sex scene between our couple as they are kept pretty busy evading the machinations of evil sorcerers and deities.
Scott has an excellent note on historical accuracy on her website, indicating that while she has done a tremendous amount of research (it shows in her wonderful descriptions of the religion and everyday life), she still took some liberties with the history, particularly with the Pharaoh who doesn’t appear on any list of kings. The bibliography of sources she lists is a nice start for anyone interested in learning more (even if, as a librarian, I wish she had included publisher and year information and/or links to an online bookstore).
Did I mention that this book is not just excellent but affordable? A full-length novel from Carina (and therefore only available in ebook form), Warrior of the Nile is only $1.99! While other books in the series appear to be set in the same world, they also are independent of one another, so you can break into the series at any point with impunity. I’ve already ordered the first book in the series, Priestess of the Nile about a singer who catches the eye of the Crocodile God in human form. Dancer of the Nile, the third book, will be published in October 2013, so if you find yourself liking Scott’s writing (and I think you will) you won’t have to wait long for the next installment.
Historical romance readers should definitely give Veronica Scott’s The Gods of Egypt series is a try as it delivers great characters, a rich setting, and strong plots filled with meddlesome gods and goddesses who love interfering with human lives. Happy Reading!