THE EYE OF HORUS
By: Carol Thurston
HarperTorch, New York
July 2001 (pb)
Carol Thurston is by no means the first author to
juxtapose two plot lines in a story, one in a contemporary context and
the other in an ancient time, and have them converge to form one
seamless and related plot (I would refer readers to Ann Benson’s
wonderful The Plague Tales and its somewhat less imaginative but
still entertaining sequel, The Burning Road), but in her first
novel, The Eye of Horus, she has demonstrated that she is among
the very best.
Thurston describes the odyssey of a young physician
named Senakhtenre (Tenre), living in ancient Egypt during the time of
Tutankhamen and his immediate successors.
The author deftly weaves fact and fiction together, describing a
second millennium B.C. Egypt that is seething with intrigue, political
chicanery, religious zeal and intolerance and good old-fashioned human
lust. Tenre helps deliver
the infant Aset, daughter of a high priest named Ramose and Nefertiti,
wife of the “heretic king,” Akhenaten, who unsuccessfully tried to
introduce monotheism to ancient Egypt. For the next quarter century Tenre is teacher, mentor,
protector, lover and finally husband to Aset, whose very existence is in
constant peril from her mother and the zealots who overthrew Akhenaten.
Almost four thousand years later (and in
alternating chapters), Thurston spins another tale.
Kate McKinnon, a medical illustrator, is hired by a Denver museum
to create displays for the Egyptology department.
With the help of Max Cavanaugh, a Denver radiologist, she tries
to unravel (metaphorically speaking) the secret behind an enigmatic
mummy—a young woman who died violently in the second millennium B.C.
Even more mysterious is the man’s skull found between the young
woman’s legs. In her
quest to discover the truth behind this perturbing burial, Kate drifts
perilously close to the borders of obsession and madness as the two
stories begin to merge.
I was prepared not to like this book very much.
I generally find stories of ancient Egypt and its various
dynasties terribly confusing and actually pretty boring.
But Thurston not only made this ancient and rather alien world
fascinating and comprehensible. She creates characters, both ancient and contemporary, that
are believable and more importantly, that the reader begins to care
about very deeply. But best
of all, she tells a good story and tells it well.
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