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The Triumph of the Sun

The Triumph of the Sun

3.6 33
by Wilbur Smith, Tim Pigott-Smith (Read by)

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They've come from out of the shifting sands and down from ancient mountains. Mounted on horse and camel, carrying gleaming swords and plundered rifles, the sons of Allah are led by a holy warrior imbued with jihad,driving his army of thousands to wipe out the last Englishmen from the isolated Nile city...

Along with hundreds of others, British trader and


They've come from out of the shifting sands and down from ancient mountains. Mounted on horse and camel, carrying gleaming swords and plundered rifles, the sons of Allah are led by a holy warrior imbued with jihad,driving his army of thousands to wipe out the last Englishmen from the isolated Nile city...

Along with hundreds of others, British trader and businessman Ryder Courtney is trapped in the capital city of Khartoum. In Khartoum, the fates of a legendary British general, a brilliant, mercenary trader, a beautiful woman and a courageous soldier will become one. They know that time is running out and rescue is improbable. So they prepare for one last stand--and the beginning of an epic journey of survival...

From a passionate rivalry for a woman to an unforgettable face-off between warriors, Wilbur Smith's The Triumph of the Sun is adventure fiction writ large--alive with the sounds of throngs, the terror of battle, and the mystical fire of human courage in the darkest moments of all.

Editorial Reviews

In this richly detailed historical novel, Wilbur Smith fleshes out a bloody holy war in late-19th-century Sudan. After decades of brutal misrule by the Egyptian khedive, the Sudanese rebel under the leadership of Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahd (the Expected One) a charismatic religious extremist. To protect their national interests and rescue their nationals, the British fight the rebels but are driven back after the savage siege of Khartoum. Smith, a master as his craft, interweaves realistic historical detail with stunning dramatic action.
Publishers Weekly
Set in colonial Egypt at the end of Victoria's reign, this sweeping romantic epic reprises Smith regulars-scions of the Courteneys and Ballantynes. (The two fictional British families have provided character fodder for least half of Smith's 30 novels.) Bloodthirsty legions of Arab dervish troops under the command of the Mahdi, or ruling successor to the Prophet Muhammad, have surrounded (but not taken) Khartoum, trapping comely 17-year-old Rebecca Benbrook; her consul general father, David; and her younger twin sisters, Saffron and Amber. The appearance of a cargo boat owned by the dashing, entrepreneurial Ryder Courteney, as well as the subsequent appearance of Capt. Penrod Ballantyne of Her Majesty's 10th Hussars, give hope. Na ve Rebecca falls in love with Ballantyne, who deflowers her before racing off to warn the rescue force commander that the commander is outnumbered 25 to one. The dervish, led by the fearsome Emir Osman Atalan, overrun Khartoum, and Rebecca's father is brutally butchered; the saga continues with Penrod heroically leading troops against Osman. Steamy romance alternates with gore, and it's all done by-the-numbers in a good way-like a junky, absorbing miniseries. Fans will not be disappointed. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In late 19th-century Egypt, a Muslim fanatic called the Mahdi incites a brutal rebellion against the British rulers, with the fighting centered on the Sudanese city of Khartoum, whose doomed garrison is commanded by Gen. "Chinese" Gordon. Trapped in the city are Ryder Courtney, a trader, and Penrod Ballantyne, a British hussar, along with the three daughters of the British consul, who must fight to survive amid the horrific savagery that results as Khartoum falls. On the other side, the brilliant but brutal Osman Atalan, one of the Mahdi's most trusted lieutenants, has vowed to kill Ballantyne. Smith has been writing excellent historical novels since 1964, with Monsoon and Warlock among the most recent, and his 30th novel is epic historical fiction in the grand tradition-sprawling, violent, erotic, and action-filled. Smith's many readers will be pleased. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/05.]-Robert Conroy, Warren, MI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Smith, grandmaster of the Grand African Adventure, quits his familiar southern haunts for the wastes of the Sudan, where wait the Siege of Khartoum, fates worth than death and more corpses than stars in the heaven. Fans of the literary novel, if they are ever so rash as to dip into one of Smith's Super Sagas (The Blue Horizon, 2003, etc.), are likely to swoon under the onslaught of the old-fashioned writing. So many similes. So many metaphors. It's just not done. Not these days. And yet here they are! " . . . her voice quivered like the strings of a lute plucked by skilled finger." "When he stood naked she rose and stepped back to admire him." " 'You bring me vast treasure, lord.' " Political correctness? Forget it. General "Chinese" Gordon, doomed commandant of the city at the forks of the Nile, may be a little crazy, but he's English, so he's honest and the crazed hordes across the Nile, who wait to rape and sack Khartoum, that isolated outpost of the Empire, are Less Than Human. The Muslim holy man stirring the tribes to murderous passion is a cynical despoiler of women. And the scenes of elephant slaughter! Gads! Who still reads this stuff? And yet . . . Smith's way with a story always prevails. Stick with him through the outrageous plot he has spun around the real-life siege and you will be riding on the fleetest camels, running nearly naked beside the finest horses, sitting in on serial defilements of a Valiant English Woman who finds pleasure on the very first try, and you will get sucked into what the movies used to call sweeping Cinemascope adventure and, like that ravished young lady, you will submit. You'll learn a little bit about the Sudan and its wretched history and, in theend, you'll see the coming of Modernity, and you will, like Smith, in his own way, find it disturbing and wrong. And you will have had a few good hours away from the current intractable Imperial crisis. Nobody does it better. But almost nobody even tries.
From the Publisher

“Espionage, disguise, stabbings in the dark…a story that is—like the Nile itself—swift and powerful.” —Booklist

“One of the world's most popular adventure writers.” —The Washington Post Book World

“A fine storyteller ... The Triumph of the Sun is one of his very best.” —The Daily Mail

“Only a handful of 20th century writers tantalize our senses as well as Smith. A rare author who wields a razor-sharp sword of craftsmanship.” —Tulsa World

“He paces his tale as swiftly as he can with swordplay aplenty and killing strokes that come like lightning out of a sunny blue sky.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Few novelists can write action scenes that all but leap off the page the way Smith can....” —Anniston Star, Texas

“Each time I read a new Wilbur Smith I say it is the best book I have ever read – until the next one.” —Times Record News (Wichita Falls, Texas)

“Smith is a master.” —Publisher's Weekly

“Smith is a captivating storyteller.” —Orlando Sentinel

“The world's leading adventure writer.” —The Daily Express

“Wilbur Smith rarely misses a trick.” —The Sunday Times

“Fans will not be disappointed.” —Publishers Weekly

Triumph of the Sun is everything [Smith's] fans have come to expect: masterful storytelling and breathtaking adventure. … Chalk up another winner.” —Times Record News, Wichita Falls, TX

“Espionage, disguise, stabbings in the dark…a story that is—like the Nile itself—swift and powerful.” —Booklist

“Nobody does it better.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Wildly entertaining, compulsively readable.” —Sunday Telegraph

Product Details

Macmillan Audio
Publication date:
Courtney Series , #12
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 6.02(h) x 0.74(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Triumph Of The Sun

By Wilbur Smith

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2005 Wilbur Smith
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-0894-8


Rebecca leant her elbows on the sill of the wide, unglazed window, and the heat of the desert blew into her face like the exhalation of a blast furnace. Even the river below her seemed to steam like a cauldron. Here it was almost a mile wide, for this was the season of High Nile. The flow was so strong that it created whirlpools and glossy eddies across the surface. The White Nile was green and fetid with the taint of the swamps through which it had so recently flowed, swamps that extended over an area the size of Belgium. The Arabs called this vast slough the Bahr el Ghazal, and the British named it the Sud.

In the cool months of the previous year Rebecca had voyaged upstream with her father to where the flow of the river emerged from the swamps. Beyond that point the channels and lagoons of the Sud were tractless and uncharted, carpeted densely with floating weed that was perpetually shifting, obscuring them from the eyes of all but the most skilled and experienced navigator. This watery, fever-ridden world was the haunt of crocodile and hippopotamus; of myriad strange birds, some beautiful and others grotesque; and of sitatunga, the weird amphibious antelope with corkscrew horns, shaggy coats and elongated hoofs, adapted for life in the water.

Rebecca turned her head and a thick blonde tress of hair fell across one eye. She brushed it aside and looked downstream to where the two great rivers met. It was a sight that always intrigued her, though she had looked upon it every day for two long years. A huge raft of water weed was sailing down the centre of the channel. It had broken free of the swamps and would be carried on by the current until it dispersed far to the north in the turbulence of the cataracts, those rapids that, from time to time, broke the smooth flow of the Nile. She followed its ponderous progress until it reached the confluence of the two Niles.

The other Nile came down from the east. It was fresh and sweet as the mountain stream that was its source. At this season of High Nile its waters were tinted a pale blue grey by the silt it had scoured from the mountainous ranges of Abyssinia. It was named for this colour. The Blue Nile was slightly narrower than its twin, but was still a massive serpent of water. The rivers came together at the apex of the triangle of land on which the City of the Elephant's Trunk stood. That was the meaning of its name, Khartoum. The two Niles did not mingle at once. As far downstream as Rebecca could see they ran side by side in the same bed, each maintaining its own distinct colour and character until they dashed together on to the rocks at the entrance to the Shabluka Gorge twenty miles on and were churned into a tumultuous union.

'You are not listening to me, my darling,' said her father sharply.

Rebecca smiled as she turned to face him. 'Forgive me, Father, I was distracted.'

'I know. I know. These are trying times,' he agreed. 'But you must face up to them. You are no longer a child, Becky.'

'Indeed I am not,' she agreed vehemently. She had not intended to whine — she never whined. 'I was seventeen last week. Mother married you when she was the same age.'

'And now you stand in her place as mistress of my household.' His expression was forlorn as he remembered his beloved wife and the terrible nature of her death.

'Father dear, you have just jumped off the cliff of your own argument.' She laughed. 'If I am what you say I am, then how can you prevail on me to abandon you?'

David Benbrook looked confused, then thrust aside his sorrow and laughed with her. She was so quick and pretty that he could seldom resist her. 'You are so like your mother.' This statement was usually his white flag of defeat, but now he struggled on with his arguments. Rebecca turned back to the window, not ignoring him but listening with only half her attention. Now that her father had reminded her of the terrible peril in which they stood she felt the cold claws of dread in the pit of her stomach as she looked across the river.

The sprawling buildings of the native city of Omdurman pressed up to the far riverbank, earth-coloured like the desert around them, tiny as dolls' houses at this distance, and wavering in the mirage. Yet menace emanated from them as fiercely as the heat from the sun. Night and day, the drums never stopped, a constant reminder of the mortal threat that hung over them. She could hear them booming across the waters, like the heartbeat of the monster. She could imagine him sitting at the centre of his web, gazing hungrily across the river at them, a fanatic with a quenchless thirst for human blood. Soon he and his minions would come for them. She shuddered, and concentrated again on her father's voice.

'Of course, I grant that you have your mother's raw courage and obstinacy, but think of the twins, Becky. Think of the babies. They are your babies now.'

'I am aware of my duty to them every waking moment of my day,' she flared, then as swiftly veiled her anger and smiled again — the smile that always softened his heart. 'But I think of you also.' She crossed to stand beside his chair, and placed her hand on his shoulder. 'If you come with us, Father, the girls and I will go.'

'I cannot, Becky. My duty is here. I am Her Majesty's consul general. I have a sacred trust. My place is here in Khartoum.'

'Then so is mine,' she said simply, and stroked his head. His hair was still thick and springing under her fingers, but shot through with more silver than sable. He was a handsome man, and she often brushed his hair and trimmed and curled his moustache for him, proudly as her mother had once done.

He sighed and gathered himself to protest further, but at that moment a shrill chorus of childish shrieks rang through the open window. They stiffened. They knew those voices, and they struck at both their hearts. Rebecca started across the room, and David sprang up from his desk. Then they relaxed as the cries came again and they recognized the tone as excitement, not terror.

'They are in the watch tower,' said Rebecca.

'They are not allowed up there,' exclaimed David.

'There are many places where they are not allowed,' Rebecca agreed, 'and those are where you can usually find them.' She led the way to the door and out into the stone-flagged passage. At the far end a circular staircase wound up the interior of the turret. Rebecca lifted her petticoats and ran up the steps, nimble and sure-footed, her father following more sedately. She came out into the blazing sunlight on the upper balcony of the turret.

The twins were dancing perilously close to the low parapet. Rebecca seized one in each hand and drew them back. She looked down from the height of the consular palace. The minarets and rooftops of Khartoum were spread below. Both branches of the Nile were in full view for miles in each direction.

Saffron tried to pull her arm out of Rebecca's grip. 'The Ibis!' she yelled. 'Look! The Ibis is coming.' She was the taller, darker twin. Wild and headstrong as a boy.

'The Intrepid Ibis,' Amber piped up. She was dainty and fair, with a melodious timbre to her voice even when she was excited. 'It's Ryder in the Intrepid Ibis.'

'Mr Ryder Courtney, to you,' Rebecca corrected her. 'You must never call grown-ups by their Christian names. I don't want to have to tell you that again.' But neither child took the reprimand to heart. All three stared eagerly up the White Nile at the pretty white steamboat coming down on the current.

'It looks like it's made of icing sugar,' said Amber, the beauty of the family, with angelic features, a pert little nose and huge blue eyes.

'You say that every time she comes,' Saffron remarked, without rancour. She was Amber's foil: eyes the colour of smoked honey, tiny freckles highlighting her high cheekbones and a wide, laughing mouth. Saffron looked up at Rebecca with a wicked glint in those honey eyes. 'Ryder is your beau, isn't he?' 'Beau' was the latest addition to her vocabulary, and as she applied it solely to Ryder Courtney, Rebecca found it pretentious and oddly infuriating.

'He is not!' Rebecca responded loftily, to hide her annoyance. 'And don't be saucy, Miss Smarty Breeches.'

'He's bringing tons of food!' Saffron pointed at the string of four capacious flat-bottomed barges that the Ibis was towing.

Rebecca released the twins' arms and shaded her eyes with both hands against the glare. She saw that Saffron was right. At least two of the barges were piled high with sacks of dhurra, the staple grain of the Sudan. The other two were filled with an assorted cargo, for Ryder was one of the most prosperous traders on the two rivers. His trading stations were strung out at intervals of a hundred miles or so along the banks of both Niles, from the confluence of the Atbara river in the north to Gondokoro and far Equatoria in the south, then eastwards from Khartoum along the Blue Nile into the highlands of Abyssinia.

Just then David stepped out on to the balcony. 'Thank the good Lord he has come,' he said softly. 'This is the last chance for you to escape. Courtney will be able to take you and hundreds of our refugees downriver, out of the Mahdi's evil clutches.'

As he spoke they heard a single cannon shot from across the White Nile. They all turned quickly and saw gunsmoke spurting from one of the Dervish Krupps guns on the far bank. A moment later a geyser of spray rose from the surface of the river a hundred yards ahead of the approaching steamer. The foam was tinged yellow with the lyddite of the bursting shell.

Rebecca clapped her hand over her mouth to stifle a cry of alarm, and David remarked drily, 'Let's pray their aim is up to the usual standard.'

One after another the other guns of the Dervish batteries burst into a long, rolling volley, and the waters around the little boat leapt and boiled with bursting shells. Shrapnel whipped the river surface like tropical rain.

Then all the great drums of the Mahdi's army thundered out in full-throated challenge and the ombeya trumpets blared. From among the mud buildings, horsemen and camel riders swarmed out and galloped along the bank, keeping pace with the Ibis.

Rebecca ran to her father's long brass telescope, which always stood on its tripod at the far end of the parapet, pointing across the river at the enemy citadel. She stood on tiptoe to reach the eyepiece and quickly focused the lens. She swept it over the swarming Dervish cavalry, who were half obscured in the red clouds of dust thrown up by their racing mounts. They appeared so close that she could see the expressions on their fierce dark faces, could almost read the oaths and threats they mouthed, and hear their terrible war cry: 'Allah Akbar! There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his prophet.'

These riders were the Ansar, the Helpers, the Mahdi's élite bodyguard. They all wore the jibba, the patched robes which symbolized the rags that had been the only garb available to them at the beginning of this jihad against the godless, the unbelievers, the infidels. Armed only with spears and rocks the Ansar had, in the past six months, destroyed three armies of the infidels and slaughtered their soldiers to the man. Now they held Khartoum in siege and gloried in their patched robes, the badge of their indomitable courage and their faith in Allah and His Mahdi, the Expected One. As they rode they brandished their double-handed swords and fired the Martini-Henry carbines they had captured from their defeated enemies.

During the months of the siege Rebecca had seen this warlike display many times, so she swung the lens off them and turned it out across the river, traversing the forest of shell splashes and leaping foam until the open bridge of the steamboat sprang into sharp focus. The familiar figure of Ryder Courtney leant on the rail of his bridge, regarding the antics of the men who were trying to kill him with faint amusement. As she watched him, he straightened and removed the long black cheroot from between his lips. He said something to his helmsman, who obediently spun the wheel and the long wake of the Ibis began to curl in towards the Khartoum bank of the river.

Despite Saffron's teasing Rebecca felt no love pang at the sight of him. Then she smiled inwardly: I doubt I would recognize it anyway. She considered herself immune to such mundane emotions. Nevertheless she experienced a twinge of admiration for Ryder's composure in the midst of such danger, followed almost immediately by the warming glow of friendship. 'Well, there is no harm in admitting that we are friends,' she reassured herself, and felt quick concern for his safety. 'Please, God, keep Ryder safe in the eye of the storm,' she whispered, and God seemed to be listening.

As she watched, a steel shard of shrapnel punched a jagged hole in the funnel just above Ryder's head, and black boiler smoke spurted out of it. He did not glance round but returned the cheroot to his lips and exhaled a long stream of grey tobacco smoke that was whipped away on the wind. He wore a rather grubby white shirt, open at the throat, sleeves rolled high. With one thumb he tipped his wide-brimmed hat of plaited palm fronds to the back of his head. At a cursory glance, he gave the impression of being stockily built, but this was an illusion fostered by the breadth and set of his shoulders and the girth of his upper arms, muscled by heavy work. His narrow waist and the manner in which he towered over the Arab helmsman at his side gave it the lie.

David had taken the hands of his younger daughters to restrain them, and leant over the parapet to engage in a shouted conversation with someone in the courtyard of the consular palace below.

'My dear General, do you think you might prevail on your gunners to return fire and take their attention off Mr Courtney's boat?' His tone was deferential.

Rebecca glanced down and saw that her father was speaking to the commanding officer of the Egyptian garrison defending the city. General 'Chinese' Gordon was a hero of the Empire, the victor of wars in every part of the world. In China his legendary 'Ever Victorious Army' had earned him the sobriquet. He had come out of his headquarters in the south wing of the palace with his red flowerpot fez on his head.

'The order has already been sent to the gunners, sir.' Gordon's reply was crisp and assertive, edged with annoyance. He did not need to be reminded of his duty.

His voice carried clearly to where Rebecca stood. It was said that he could make himself heard without effort across a raging battlefield.

A few minutes later the Egyptian artillery, in their emplacements along the city waterfront, opened up a desultory fire. Their pieces were of small calibre and obsolete pattern, six-pounder Krupps mountain guns; their ammunition was ancient and in short supply, much given to misfiring. However, to one accustomed to the ineptitudes of the Egyptian garrison, their accuracy was surprising. A few clouds of black shrapnel smoke appeared in the clear sky directly over the Dervish batteries, for the gunners on both sides had been ranging each other's positions during all the months since the beginning of the siege. The Dervish fire slackened noticeably. Still unscathed, the white steamer reached the confluence of the two rivers and the line of barges followed her as she turned sharply to starboard into the mouth of the Blue Nile and was almost immediately shielded by the buildings of the city from the guns on the west bank. Deprived of their prey the Dervish batteries fell silent.

'Please may we go down to the wharf to welcome him?' Saffron was dragging her father to the head of the staircase. 'Come on, Becky, let's go and meet your beau.'

As the family hurried through the neglected, sun-bleached gardens of the palace, they saw that General Gordon was also heading for the harbour, with a group of his Egyptian officers scampering behind him. Just beyond the gates a dead horse half blocked the alley. It had been lying there for ten days, killed by a stray Dervish shell. Its belly was swollen and its gaping wounds heaved with masses of white maggots. Flies hovered and buzzed over it in a dense blue cloud. Mingled with all the other smells of the besieged city the stench of rotting horseflesh was sulphurous. Each breath Rebecca drew seemed to catch in her throat and her stomach heaved. She fought back the nausea so that she did not disgrace herself and the dignity of her father's office.

The twins vied with each other in a pantomime of disgust. 'Poof!' and 'Stinky-woo!' they cried, then doubled over to make realistic vomiting sounds, howling with delight at each other's histrionics.

'Be off with you, you little savages!' David scowled at them and brandished his silver-mounted cane. They shrieked in mock alarm, then raced away in the direction of the harbour, leaping over piles of debris from shelled and burnt-out houses. Rebecca and David followed at their best pace, but before they had passed the customs house they encountered the city crowds moving in the same direction.


Excerpted from The Triumph Of The Sun by Wilbur Smith. Copyright © 2005 Wilbur Smith. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Wilbur Smith is the bestselling author of many novels, each meticulously researched on his numerous expeditions worldwide. His bestselling Courtney series includes Assegai, The Sound of Thunder, Birds of Prey, Monsoon, and Blue Horizon. His other books include River God, Warlock, The Seventh Scroll, and The Sunbird. His books are now translated into twenty-six languages and have sold over 120 million copies. Smith was born to a British family in Northern Rhodesia, now Zambia, in Central Africa, and attended Rhodes University in South Africa. He has homes in Cape Town, London, Switzerland and Malta.

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The Triumph of the Sun 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
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turtleeagle More than 1 year ago
I have found that Wilbur Smith is a writer whose understanding of his subjects make for novels that intrigue, captivate, and leave you wanting to read more of his novels. I am in hopes that I will be able to get all of his works and read them with as much relish as I have this book. If you,re looking for a good read to pass time in front of a warm fire or while waiting in an airport for that flight, this is the author that can make that time pass quickly, since you will be drawn into the book and storyline. Hard to put down!
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Jimsyker More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book greatly and was drawn into the drama that unfolded. One of my favorite Wilbur Smith books and I highly recommend reading this. I could really feel the tension of the siege on the city and the battles that ensued. The dynamics between the characters and how they played out was really cool and fun to see unfold.
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I can't believe I never read Wilbur Smith before I stumbled on this book. After reading it, I educated myself on the author and his work. Like many prolific writers who crank out historical fiction, Wilbur Smith has created some fictional family trees, and crafted multiple stories around the generations thereof. In this novel, the Courtney and Ballentine families intersect during the siege of Khartoum. The novel takes the characters years beyond that event, and makes use of the author's extensive research on Africa, and the Sudan in particular, to provide a glimpse inside 2 distinct cultures. I suspect Wilbur Smith is a closet anthropologist...not just because of the attention he gives animals in some of his novels, but because of the human actions and interactions he depicts--usually according to type. This book has a lot to offer: adventure, romance, action, tragedy, and a couple happy mini-endings.
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