Astrologer, engineer, architect, scribe...Taita is one of the most gifted men in all Egypt. Who better to be advisor to the omnipotent Lord Intef and tutor to his beautiful daughter, Lostris? But Taita is also Intef's slave and must submit to his cruel master's every command. How then, can he help Lostris when she falls in love with the most valiant Tanus, the son of her father's most hated enemy? How can he turn his back on the girl he watched over and loved since childhood? Taita must tread carefully - or risk his master's most dreadful retribution.

RIVER GOD accounts the dramatic and cataclysmic changes that lie in the future of young lovers,  power-hungry leaders and an ancient dynastic civilization on the verge of collapsing to a feared and powerful enemy.



Interesting Information

First published in 1993 by Macmillan

UK first edition recommended retail price: 15.99
Book dedication: This book, like so many others before it, is for my wife, Danielle Antoinette. The Nile that flows through this story has both of us in her thrall. We have spent days of delight voyaging together upon her waters and idling upon her banks. As we are, so is she a creature of this very Africa of ours. Yet this great river runs neither so strongly nor so deeply as my love for you, my darling.

The hieroglyphs used in the book write the name of the god of the Nile inundation, Hapi, from the papyrus of Ani. Each chapter begins with this image.

map_nile.jpg (60911 bytes)Click on the left thumbnail for  the map of the Nile, used in the UK hardcover book.

map.jpg (252919 bytes)Click on the left thumbnail for the map drawn by Malcolm Porter for the Reader's Digest condensed version.

Click on the images below to view the paintings done by Neville Dear for the Reader's Digest condensed version of RIVER GOD.
The scared hippopotamus hunt on the River Nile. The marriage between Lostris and Pharaoh Mamose. Lostris comes to Taita's defence against a deadly cobra. Tanus reveals himself at the Festival of Osiris after a 2-year haitus. Pharaoh Mamose is mortally wounded by a Hyksos arrow. Horses are used to help pull the galleys up the Nile's many cataracts. Tanus defeats Arkoun, the Ethiopian.
RIVER GOD was the first Smith novel that was written on a word processor and not by hand.
The sequel to RIVER GOD is 2001's WARLOCK which continues to life of Taita as an aged warlock desperate to save the Egyptian kingdom and place Prince Nefer, Lostris' young grandson on the throne.
The seeds of RIVER GOD and THE SEVENTH SCROLL were on Wilbur's mind as early as 1990, when he mentioned in an interview that he was returning to Africa to take a cruise down the Nile because he had a few ideas about trying to do another Sunbird sometime in the future.
Wilbur's comments on the success of RIVER GOD: One lady wrote to me to say that she'd read the first few pages of RIVER GOD and it wasn't me. I wrote back and apologized for disappointing her. Three months later she replied, saying, "I finished it, and it's the best book you've written by far." When people got over the shock, they accepted it, and RIVER GOD has been one of my most successful books.

Wilbur's comments on RIVER GOD: It has the same sort of mystical element and an ancient historical background as SUNBIRD.

The idea for the novel came from the 1988 discovery of the tomb of a previously unrecorded Egyptian queen, who died about 1780BC. The academic who led the dig on the West Bank of the Nile invited Smith to assist in the transcription of precious scrolls found in a hidden niche. Smith used his imagination to expand on the material in the scrolls, written by the eunuch slave Taita about his beloved queen, Lostris, her lover Tanus, and the Pharaoh, whom Lostris had been forced to marry when she was only 14.

As a writer of fiction, primarily, and not as a historian, I have taken liberties, Smith said. I've added dialogue and built up the characters, but generally speaking the historical background is authentic. The Hyksos invasion was a time of confusion and chaos, so very little has come down to us from that period, and that's why I was able to indulge my imagination a little bit, filling in the gaps. (The broad theme) is accurate not only from the Taita scrolls but from what we know, what Egyptologists know about that period. It all fits in.

Smith said the scrolls, which were translated at the Cairo Museum, were fragmentary. The author had no character coming through at all because the script is not conducive to conveying subtle emotions, he said. So I've had to pile on a lot of my own feelings. The slave Taita, the narrator of the story, has a lot of me in him: I've managed to usurp the chair from him.

The scrolls were written as a personal account and a tribute to the woman he loved, and also to his own genius and power and to brag about what an extraordinary person he was. I've kept that sort of feeling in the book and I thought it was quite endearing that he was such a braggart and such a blowhard, but also had other qualities which were of great value: faithfulness and love, compassion, love of animals and his people. All these things were hidden in the text, but I had to fossick them out. My imagination was allowed to run riot.

Ancient Egypt initially seems an unusual topic for Smith. However, he has long been fascinated by the African continent's early history and one of his most popular novels in SUNBIRD, an exciting adventure story about an archaeologist who uncovers the remains of an ancient African city and is transported back in time to that era. I have received so many requests over the years for another SUNBIRD, that I decided I should take heed. With RIVER GOD, I have remained in Africa, but this time I have moved further north than ever before to the banks of the Rover Nile.

It was as a child that Wilbur developed an interest in African history, particularly in Egypt at the time of the pharaohs. He has since read so many books on the subject that when he came to write RIVER GOD he didn't need to do much extra research. Also, he has visited Egypt frequently over the years, he knows the country and climate well. He says that the book grew quickly from an idea about the life of an Egyptian slave that had been 'buzzing around' in his mind for some time. He chose the period of the Hyksos invasions for the setting, started with the few facts which are known about that time and built the story around them. My books are always such a mixture of fact and imagination that not even I know where one begins and the other ends, he admits. The vast scope of RIVER GOD must have made the book a daunting undertaking but Smith says, I had a great deal of fun writing it. I only wish that all my characters would come forward so readily and the plots present themselves so naturally!


Reader Reviews

From Andre' Mes -

Phew! I have never been so riveted as I was to this masterpiece. Being the first Smith novel I read, I couldn't believe that someone could write so vividly about an age that is haunted with mysteries. Smith has researched his story so well that he could have written a load of nonsense and I would have believed every word. Spanning many years, RIVER GOD is storytelling at its supreme. I think I learnt more about Egyptian culture through this prose than any other film or book I have read. One learns to adore the narrator, the intelligent, arrogant, but selfless eunuch, Taita from the moment the story starts. Lord Intef is so evil that his gut-wrenching (!) demise is welcomed, yet horrifyingly tragic! The sex oozes from all sides creating a romantic, yet erotic vision of Egyptian dynastic rule. Smith will have to go a long way to beat this epic, reminiscent of SUNBIRD, but written in the sweeping style of the Courtney novel. Full marks on every page!
An epic of sex, death and intrigue in the Valley of the Kings...richly written...packs in the action...excellent. - Weekend Telegraph

Grand mythical material...the set pieces are fabulous. - Times Literary Supplement

Superlatively evocative...Smith's descriptions hardly falter over 500 pages...[RIVER GOD] has relentless momentum. - Observer

High adventure...there is never a lull in this majestic novel overflowing with passion, rage, treachery, barbarism, prolonged excitement and endless passages of sheer, exquisite colour. - Washington Post



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