Wednesday, November 28, 2007

God King -- Excellent historical fiction for young folks

God King is a very enjoyable and readable historical fiction account of the early reign of Taharka, Pharaoh of Egypt, whose dynasty originated in the kingdom of Kush in present-day Sudan. Young Tarharka is one of the many sons of Shabaka, God King of Egypt. He is neither the eldest nor the most accomplished, but the succession falls to him nonetheless. However, there are schemers in Egypt keen to take advantage of a young king's inexperience. Worse, the mighty Assyrian Sennacherib is gathering his power to the north. Only the Hebrew king Hezekiah holds out against the Assyrians.

In Taharka, the unwilling Pharaoh, Joanne Williamson has created a very sympathetic character. He is naive and trusting at first, yet learns to be strong, resourceful, and merciful. The melding of the scant historical record of the time with the Biblical account of King Hezekiah is skillfully done and the reader truly does get a feel for the time and place.

Overall, this book is a good read for young folks (say, 10 and up) and adults as well. I particularly liked the fact that the book was set in a historical period that is not well studied by your typical 12 year old. Hopefully, it will spur some interest in ancient history among the young. The book is also notable because though Taharka is Black, race never becomes an issue as it often so tediously does in more contemporary fiction for young people. For this reason, I almost hesitate to bring up the subject at all. Let it suffice to say that if more fiction were written from this perspective--where a Black main character is portrayed positively and the other characters are good or evil not based on their race but on their actions--race relations in the real world might actually improve.

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