Testament by Wilbur Smith

Reviewed by Richard Tutin

I need to state from the outset that I am a long-time fan of Wilbur Smith’s Ancient Egyptian Adventures series. It probably stems from my great interest in things historical especially the empires of Egypt and Rome.

The key character in the series is Taita who though a slave has managed to navigate the intricate system of Egyptian politics and tradition to become an indispensable adviser to many Pharaohs or Kings. In this latest addition to the series, Taita though takes a back seat and is hardly seen though he is often mentioned. It is left to his assistant and master spy Piay to take centre stage as the plot unfolds. We could be right in thinking that perhaps Piay will continue to play a more central role in later stories if the series continues.

One of the key elements in the series has been the age-old struggle between good and evil. Good is represented by the traditional pharaohs of Upper Egypt while evil is embodied in the Hyksos or Sea People who invaded Lower Egypt and who ruled that part of the country for over one hundred years. Testament is set in the period when the Hyksos were losing their power due to the success in battle of the Pharaohs who ruled from Thebes. While this struggle is being played out in the finite world, it is also occurring in the spiritual realm as Piay works to unravel the mysteries of an age-old riddle that has the power to secure the fate of Egypt forever.

The great difficulty in setting a story in Ancient Egypt in any of its eras is the lack of information we have about many areas of its life. The main keepers of records were the various Pharaohs who liked the world to know of their exploits and victories and who left their legacy behind in the buildings and tombs they constructed. Of the ordinary people, who probably suffered much no matter where in Egypt they lived, we know nothing or very little.

Another area of mystery is unravelling ancient Egyptian religious traditions and beliefs. Smith has obviously done a lot of research to map out some bones which he has fleshed out to produce an interesting and thought-provoking tale.

Though Smith passed away in 2021, he left behind a legacy of work that is still to be published. His estate has enlisted the skills of author Mark Chadbourn to hone the material with Testament being the first posthumous work to be published.

Though I found the beginning of the book a little slow, it soon picked up pace as the story and characters developed. We do not need to be experts on ancient Egypt to appreciate the storyline or the characters who inhabit the book. Chadbourne’s light touch allows us to appreciate once more Wilbur Smith’s genius in being able to weave a good story and keep us interested in the tale until the end of the book.

Wilbur Smith was born in Central Africa in 1933. He became a full-time writer in 1964 following the success of When the Lion Feeds and has since published over fifty bestsellers including the Courtney series, the Ballantyne series, the Egyptian series, the Hector Cross series and many successful standalone novels all meticulously researched on his expeditions worldwide. He died peacefully at home in 2021 leaving behind a rich treasure trove of novels and stories that will delight readers for years to come.

Mark Chadbourn is a Sunday Times bestselling author of historical fiction novels about the Anglo-Saxon warrior Hereward under his pseudonym James Wilde. The Age of Misrule books, under his own name, have been translated into many languages.


by Wilbur Smith with Mark Chadbourn



ISBN 978 183877 635 0

$39.99; 448pp

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