Christian Jacq, author of the international triumphs Ramses and The Stone of Light, brings the people and passions of ancient Egypt to life in an enthralling epic novel in three volumes.
Egypt is a shadow of its former self. An army of barbarians mounted on horse-drawn chariots has swept through the Empire, destroying everything in its path. Known as the Hyksos, these "leaders from foreign lands" have reduced the country of the pharaohs to slavery. Only the city of Thebes resists, protected by the widow of the last pharaoh, Teti the Small. But Teti knows that her reign is limited, that it's only a matter of time before her men succumb to the barbarities of the cruel Hyksos. She has an eighteen-year-old daughter, however: Ahhotep. Fierce, beautiful, and courageous, this girl whom history will call "Egypt's Joan of Arc" will never accept defeat. And so she decides to re-ignite the flame of Egyptian resistance. All by herself.
Combining historical fact with a vivid imagination, Christian Jacq tells the enthralling true story of this Ancient Egyptian warrior-heroine. Without the courage and passion of Queen Ahhotep, the Valley of the Kings and the glorious treasures of the pharaohs, including Ramses the Great, would never have existed.
About the Author
Christian Jacq, who holds a doctorate in Egyptology, is the author or numerous bestsellers, including Ramses, which has sold more than eleven million copies. He lives in Switzerland.
Read an Excerpt
Ahhotep had not moved for more than half an hour. When she saw the last guard walk past the main gate of the palace, the beautiful brown-haired girl took advantage of the few minutes before the guard was relieved and scurried into a thicket of tamarisks, where she hid until nightfall.
Ahhotep was the eighteen-year-old daughter of Queen Teti the Small, and she bore a strange name, which could be translated as "The Moon is Full," "The Moon Has Been Appeased," or even "War and Peace," for, according to the sages, the moon was a warrior god embodying the mystery of death and resurrection.
War...it was the only way to rid the land of the Hyksos who controlled it all with the exception of Thebes, the sacred city of the god Amon. Thanks to his protection, the Temple of Karnak and the town nearby had been spared by the barbarians, but for how much longer?
The Hyksos had flooded in through the Delta forty years before, like a mighty swarm of locusts. Asians, Arabs, Canaanites, Syrians, Scythians, Minoans, Cyprians, Persians, Anatolians, and yet more races, all armed to the teeth. They used strange four-legged creatures called horses, which had large heads and were bigger and faster than donkeys. The horses drew wheeled vehicles which moved incredibly swiftly and had enabled the attackers to massacre Pharaoh's soldiers.
Ahhotep cursed the softness and cowardice of the feeble Theban army. True, it could not hope to measure up to the large, powerful forces of occupation, with their terrifying new weapons, but failure to act would result in annihilation. When Apophis, supreme commander of the Hyksos, eventually decided to raze Thebes to the ground, the Egyptian soldiers would run away, and the population would be massacred with the exception of pretty women, who would be used by the brutish soldiers for their pleasure, and sturdy children, who would be sent into slavery. The last free men on Egyptian soil would bow their heads, incapable of doing anything.
What was left of the wondrous realm of the pyramid builders? A province caught between the occupying power in the north and its Nubian allies in the south, a temple built by Senusret I and left abandoned, and a palace that now looked anything but royal.
Without Teti the Small's resolution, even the House of the Queen would have been destroyed, and the Thebans, like all other Egyptians, would have become servants of the Hyksos. But, trapped in her isolation, Teti was beginning to weaken, and the supporters of Theban independence saw their numbers fall every day.
If there were only one rebel left, that person would be Ahhotep. The young girl had no fear of battle, suffering, or death. Even with a dagger at her throat, she still would refuse to submit to the Hyksos yoke.
The courtiers mocked her as mad, regarding her as amusing rather than dangerous. They were wrong. Today was the start of the war for freedom. With an eighteen-year-old rebel as its only soldier and a well-sharpened flint knife as its only weapon.
The guard had been changed, and Thebes was asleep. It was a long time since any banquets had been held or music played in the reception hall, with its faded paintings. And there was no longer a pharaoh to take his seat upon a desperately empty throne.
Ahhotep wanted to forget this heartrending sight, and she ran toward the landing stage. At the quay lay a half-derelict cargo barge, once used to transport blocks of stone from the quarries, which the Hyksos had closed down, and a few small sailing boats.
Among them was one small boat in good condition. This was the means of transport Ahhotep planned to use to leave the Theban enclave. She jumped nimbly down into the boat and seized the oars. She was heading north, and the current would be in her favor.
No one traveled on the river at night, for there were many dangers hippopotamus, crocodiles, whirlpools but Ahhotep had no choice. "And when we have no choice," she often declared loudly, "we are free."
Determinedly, the princess began to row.
Since no one could tell her precisely where the free area ended and Hyksos-occupied territory began, she would find out for herself. The queen's frightened advisers assumed that the Hyksos had made great progress since Apophis's seizure of power, and Apophis's reputation for cruelty exceeded his predecessors'. They were urging Teti to leave Thebes without delay.
But where could she live in safety?
As far as Ahhotep was concerned, the only refuge was in attack. The first skirmish would take place on the demarcation line, and, if necessary, the princess herself would command the tattered remnants of the Egyptian army.
In the past forty years, thousands of her compatriots had been massacred. The Hyksos believed they could act with complete impunity and continue their reign of terror over the Two Lands of Upper and Lower Egypt. Ahhotep soon would show them that they were very wrong.
Never had an Egyptian princess, accustomed to the luxury of court, been forced to wield heavy oars like this, at the risk of spoiling her hands. But the survival of the country was at stake, and the pretty brunette thought only of the goal she must attain.
The boat bumped hard against something and almost capsized, but by great good luck it righted itself. Ahhotep glimpsed a dark form moving away, its powerful tail thrashing in the water. She had disturbed a crocodile.
Refusing to be afraid, Ahhotep rowed on. Thanks to her excellent eyesight and the light of the full moon, she avoided the wreckage of a boat and a grassy islet where pelicans were sleeping. On the banks, the peasants' houses stood abandoned. Fearing that the invaders were coming, the people had taken refuge in Thebes.
Not far away, she saw smoke.
Ahhotep slowed her pace, steered the boat toward the bank, and hid it in a papyrus thicket, disturbing a cloud of sleeping egrets. Fearing that their cries might give her away, she waited some time before moving. When she eventually climbed up the sloping bank, she found herself in an abandoned field.
Was the smoke coming from a burning farm or from a Hyksos camp? Whichever the case, the enemy was very close.
"Well, well, little girl," barked an aggressive voice. "What are you doing here?"
Without a moment's hesitation, Ahhotep swung around and, brandishing her flint knife in her right hand, hurled herself at the enemy.
Copyright © 2001 by Xo Editions. All rights reserved.
English translation copyright © 2003 by Sue Dyson
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Written by an Egyptologist this book has great historical details mixed with the fictional aspects. Some of the story wandered into the fantasy realm, but even these aspects lent a sense of presence to the book. The fantasy-like details focused on the belief system of the Egyptians and incorporated workings with the deities they worshiped which I find interesting. Looking forward to reading the others in the series if I can find them.
A book that proposes to fictionalize some portions of Egyptian history. With a fascination in that history, I was drawn to this book. The novelization disappointed me, as the text did not draw me in as I might hope. The characters feel hollow, as if they had no history, no backstory. While think the book held a lot of possibles, it missed on many cases
I have confessed before that I love reading historical fiction about Ancient Egypt. I’m certain that repeated viewing of The Ten Commandments starring a ripped Charleton Heston and a buff Yul Brenner are the cause of this fascination. I am drawn to these types of novels over and over again and years ago I encountered The Stone of Light series by Christian Jacq. He wove wonderful stories and I actively started seeking out his novels about Ancient Egypt which are difficult to find because they are in translation. I acquired by first copy of The Empire of Darkness years ago and recall falling in love with the story. I was determined to finish the series, but it took some time to find the other two books in the series. Once I had The War of Crowns and The Flaming Sword the set languished on my shelves. In the past, I have been reluctant to re-read and I knew in order to get through books two and three, I would need a refresher by re-reading book 1. In July, I found out that Fantasy is More Fun and Because Reading were hosting a “Can You Read a Series in a Month?” Challenge and I thought that The Queen of Freedom Trilogy would be the perfect candidate for the Challenge. I couldn’t have been more wrong. What is hard about reading books in translation is that it is hard to determine if the weakness you observe in the novel were in the original text or a due to poor translation to English or due, in this case, to a part of history where little is known about the cast of characters. The entire time I read The Empire of Darkness I felt as though I was just skimming the surface. The characters were one-dimensional caricatures. The tropes in this novel are strong. I did make it through book 1 and in an effort to try and participate in the challenge, I dived right into book 2, The War of Crowns. I didn’t even make it through 50 pages before I started to suspect that perhaps this book was subject to a poor translation instead of being just poorly written in its native language. You see in book one, Sequen (the poor boy) has a faithful pet sidekick, his donkey Long Ears. (Yeah, I know the characters are not well named. One of the rebels known solely as Mustache because well, he has a mustache.). And then on page 12 of The War of the Crowns, the donkey’s name is Way-Finder. There were also some plot elements that didn’t seem to quite match up between book one two. As a result, I dropped book 2 like a hot potato and marked it and book 3 as abandoned on GoodReads. I honestly have no clue what I saw in The Empire of Darkness all those years ago. I can only assume that I have grown in my reading since this initial read through and expect a bit more from my picks than I did in the past.
Not enough detail and depth to characters. If you are looking for good trilogy of the hyskos, start with pauline gedge's "hippopotomous marsh"
I have read previous series written by Christian Jacq. I have enjoyed them alot! This new trilogy lives up to the last two. He has a background in egyptology and uses is knowledge to write his books. If you enjoy historical fiction and ancient Eygpt, you will enjoy this author's books. :)
I like the topic of this book but I found myself craving more detail so that I could picture it for myself and feel like I was there. I don't think that the characters were developed very well either, you don't get a lot of inner thoughts or monologues of the characters, except from maybe the Hyskos leader and his evil minion. They like to 'share' how much pleasure they get from torturing the Egyptians. For example, when Seqen tells Ahhotep that he loves her he just blurts it out with no warning at all. The reader has no idea of what he or Ahhotep are feeling or thinking about each other up to that point. Another example is when Ahhotep meets Titi. She doesn't know who he is or if she can trust him but immediately tells him who she is and what her plans are, seems to me that if times were that dangerous she would at least 'test the waters' a little. I would also have liked to know what was going through her mind at the time. During the same exchange there could have been more details also. Titi asks Ahhotep to describe the Palace so that he knows she is who she says she is. Instead of describing the Palace in detail, the author just says Ahhotep described the Palace to Titi. I would like to know what it took to chase the Hyskos out of Egypt but I don't know if it's worth the price of the next book in this series.
several uneeded descriptions, over emphasis on the 'power' of the egyptian gods, and an inhuman portrayal of the Hyksos ruin an otherwise good story. the plot is great, but the details are put where they should not be put. i probably won't be reading the other books in this trilogy.
This novel tells the story of the ancient Egyptians' struggle to free their land from the Hyksos invaders. The Egyptian characters are very appealing and well-rendered, and the reader quickly learns to care about them and their country languishing under foreign rule. But don't expect any subtlety when it comes to their enemies, the Hyksos. From their Darth Vader-like ruler to the lowliest foot soldier, they are all evil, cruel, lecherous and stupid. There is no attempt to portray a clash of different cultures here, with sympathetic characters on both sides. The good guys are heaven-pure and their foes are the human equivalent of animated feces. Worst of all, we the readers are supposed to weep copious tears when an Egyptian stubs a toe, but are supposed to feel gratified when the Hyksos are burned, pierced, slashed, drowned or otherwise butchered. I enjoyed this book as an adventure story with a light coating of history, but was very disappointed to see that the author had chosen to portray one of the battling civilizations it describes as totally worthless and wicked. Mr. Jacq is apparently very careful about getting his Egyptological facts correct. I just wish he had shown the Egyptians' enemies as something a little more human and a little less like Stormtroopers or Orcs. Read this for fun, but certainly not as a portrayal of any real human culture. Even the Hyksos deserve better.