Historical Fiction Review - House of Illusions by Pauline Gedge
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★★★
Author: Pauline Gedge
Release Date: 1996
Genres: Historical Fiction
Series: Lady of the Reeds, #2
Sequel to: House of Dreams

Pauline Gedge is a master at recreating the golden age in Egypt.

Her heroine, Thu, a peasant girl from the village of Aswat, possesses both beauty and intelligence. To her good fortune Thu is found and brought to the center of society. She is chosen and trained for the court of Pharaoh Ramses. Her talent and guile win her a post in the harem.

Thu rises in favor, is betrayed in a court intrigue that threatens her life and falls from grace. Pharaoh spares her life but banishes her to serve the priests at the lowly temple of Wepwawet near the first cataract.

House of Illusions opens on Gedge’s vividly recreated Egypt, sixteen years after Thu’s banishment. During her exile she writes an account of her court life and the betrayal for which she seeks revenge.

Every action has a consequence.
No crime goes unpunished.

Thu, banished to the very village of Asawat she so desperately tried to escape because of the attempted murder of Pharaoh Ramses III, knows this better than anyone.
Sixteen years have passed since she sealed her fate.
Years of painful memories, hard work and repentant isolation, during which she has longed for nothing more than forgiveness from the Great One and revenge upon the ones that deceived and used her in their plot.

House of Illusions narrates the story of said revenge.

While it most certainly was an enjoyable reading experience, one I was very excited to embark upon between my warm blankets, it sadly did not live up to House of Dreams, a superb example of evocative effort to revive the splendors and intrigues of Ancient Egypt.

The reasons for that are quite simple: I could’ve happily lived with the tragic ending of Lady of the Reeds #1 because the less than happy outcome of the story was realistic. Something I cannot say of its sequel, since the ending and general events near the end were rather fantastical and predictable.

Still, miraculous disclosures and events aside, Pauline Gedge yet again brings Ancient Egypt to life with her compelling characters and evocative descriptions of both customs and landscapes.

Curiosities:

– this sequel to House of Dreams, also known as Lady of the Reeds, was actually written as a response to the overwhelming reader popularity of the character of Thu in the previous book.
– in real life Ramesses III, Tiye and their son Pentaweres were all killed as a result of the Harem Conspiracy, thus this particular book can be considered as pure fiction in a historical setting;
– archaeologists speculate that the so-called “Screaming Mummy” was Pentaweres and that he was executed by drinking poison, which accounts for the gruesome expression that gives this mummy his name;

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