River God Summary
The novel River God by Wilbur Smith is set in Ancient Egypt, during a time when the kingdoms were beginning to collapse and the Upper and Lower Egypt were separated between two rulers. The story is in the view-point of Taita, a highly multi-talented eunuch slave. At the beginning of the story, Taita belongs to Lord Intef and helps manage his estate along with caring for his beautiful daughter, Lostris. She is in love with Tanus, a fine solider and also Taita’s friend. Unfortunately, Lord Intef despises Tanus’s father, Lord Harrab, and Intef was actually the one who the cause of the fall of Harrab’s estate, unknowingly to Lostris and Tanus.Taita’s goal is to bring back Egypt to its former glory, but with so many bandits and invaders it would be a difficult task.
Early in the novel, Taita is to set up a pageant for the Pharaoh, and casts Lostris and Tanus in the play. The Pharaoh is so taken aback by Lostris’s beauty he decides to marry her, in which Taita did not plan to do. Tanus made a speech at the end of the play that spoke about all the troubles in Egypt in which angered the Pharaoh and sentenced him to death if he cannot eliminate the problems of the bandits, mainly the ones called the Shrikes, in two years.When Lostris marries the Pharaoh, she asks for Taita as her wedding gift from her father.
Lord Intef, being unable to refuse the wife of the pharaoh, has to give up Taita, whom knows every one of his secrets. Intef makes several attempts to kill Taita without success. Taita then goes off to help Tanus defeat the Shrikes. In two years, they defeat the whole band of Shrikes and capture several of their leaders, and when Tanus presents them to the Pharaoh, Tanus’s sentence is lifted. When the Pharaoh demands to know who their commander is, they all point to Lord Intef.
Intef is captured and sentenced to death, but escape before it is carried out. After that, during a terrible sand storm, Tanus and Lostris are finally able to be alone, but Lostris then got pregnant with Tanus’s son. Taita makes it so that the Pharaoh believes that it is his son, so when the child is born, he is named Memnon and no one ever knows who his true father is except for Taita, Lostris, and Tanus. Taita and is appointed as his mentor for education, and with the help of Lostris, Tanus is appointed his mentor in fighting.
All is well until the Hyksos, a group of powerful, undefeatable enemies, come. At first, they did not believe it was true, for the rumors that they heard were too outrageous to be true. Unfortunately, when they came, Egypt’s army was unprepared and they suffered a great loss with the death of the Pharaoh, struck down by an arrow. The Hyksos had horses and chariots, something the Egyptians had never seen before. Somehow, the Hyksos cut down the Egyptian army as if they were nothing. They found out that Lord Intef was feeding information to the Hyksos, and Intef is eventually killed.
Because of all the losses the Egyptians and Taita’s foretelling, they were forced to leave their land and follow the Nile farther into the continent and into the wilderness. During their journey, Lostris bore two daughters of Tanus, with Taita coming up with the story of the deceased Pharaoh coming to Lostris as a ghost. Taita dedicated his time to replicating the weapons and chariots of the Hyksos, along with training people to handle the horses that they had obtained from the Hyksos. He searched for a spot in the mountains to find a place for the Pharaoh’s tomb.Unfortunately, while he, Tanus, Memnon, and a group of others ventured further into the mountain, a flash flood comes and kills all the others. The three wandered and encountered the Ethiopians.
They met a girl named Masara, but before they got to know who she is, they get attacked. Tanus and Memnon reluctantly escaped, leaving an injured Taita behind. Luckily, he is spared and eventually came in favor of the chieftain Arkoun. He eventually escaped, making a deal with another Ethiopian chieftain, Masara’s father, to bring down Arkoun. He went back to the Egyptians and came back to defeat Arkoun.
Sadly, Tanus is mortally wounded by Arkoun’s blade and dies making Taita swear to never tell Memnon who his true father was. Masara and Memnon, now Pharaoh Tamose, get married as a result of the deal with Masara’s father. They receive several thousand powerful horses as a wedding gift, and go back to prepared their army. They bury the Pharaoh and Tanus, but with the help of Tanus’s friend Kratas, Taita switches the two bodies, for he believed that Tanus deserved it more than the Pharaoh himself, doing great deeds during his lifetime and being humble and loyal enough to have refused to take the throne.They travel back to Egypt, and launch a surprise attack on the Hyksos. At that time, Lostris was weak and sick, but Memnon was a full-grown solider and an exceptional commander of the army.
They had beforehand wiped out many of the Hyksos horses, so with all the training they had done, they defeat and drive out the Hyksos from their home city. Lostris, dying because of the sickness inside her, saw her beloved city once more. She requests that Taita do one last divination for her, and he predicts that it would be long before there was peace in Egypt, but her line of the crown would last for many generations.