I was given a ARC in exchange for a fair review via Netgalley. Thank you to Aidan K. Morrisey and Troubadour Publishing.
The Awakening Aten is a sweeping drama centered on the Rise of Atenism and the decline of Egypt’s old religion.
I imagine that Yuya himself was an Israelite Jew pressed into the service of the Hittite Army.
Aidan has done a huge amount of research within this novel, faithfully creating what is essentially a diary of daily Egyptian life.
My main point for improvement was that not much happened in between the novels, we were moving scenes from Kha’s son, Djoser to see how he becomes a man and transition himself into a political life that makes GOT looks very amateur. Egyptian Royal Politics was so inter-wound with their tombs, you’d be hard-pressed to find another culture that puts so much emphasis on its tombs. Now I understand why Egyptians kept building them so much. The tomb was your way to the afterlife.
A word of warning, the action is meaningful enough with a battle with the Hittites, and Aidan produces a fantastic sentence describing the fluttering of the flag across the wind as bodies are piled onto the floor. He also shows how Egypt’s royal monarchy falls in corruption as the High Priests are basically what caused Atenism to erupt. That was my general impression. But if the Priests of culture get corrupt, then people like Martin Luther did in Germany with raising his new Protestant religion. King Thutmose also doubts the nature of the Gods, for if the Gods are not controlling the sins of men, then what use are they? Could one God give all of that?
However, I disagreed with this point of view. The main point there should have been a character who worshipped the Gods but hated that the Priests had made themselves rich and corrupt. He would have a solid counter-argument to Atenism, arguing that it was the will of the Priests to choose. If the Gods created this world, then it was human will that led to wars and massacres. It was humans after all that split away from Ra from becoming too rebellious. If we see another character like this in the next novel, I will be pleased.
Many times I thought the author described too much effort into explaining a lot of detail about Egyptian life. While helpful, I felt this is a problem with historical fiction novels as authors have to often describe the details you don’t know about. Aidan is an Egyptologist so that makes me envious of him. Although there were many scenes which dragged on, and it felt like a family drama sometimes. This is not a fault, this is more of the fact that you’re describing an army scene for example. Aidan showed Kha on the chariot and then he’s asking the Officer what an army is. The officer went into a lot of detail, but I would have wanted to see the descriptions of the Medjay Guard in an action for example. Rather than describing it. But how can you balance both of show and tell in a scene like this? Kha is a scribe and thus he’s never heard or seen an army in his life. Now say you wrote a Napoleonic story, it would be much easier to describe French Bluecoats and the Imperial Guard marching onto the battlefield, drums waving, and their muskets glinting in the sunlight as cannons roar around them. Whereas say with an Egyptian battlefield, I would have wanted a more active description, more cinematic action, more details of soldiers crushing their clubs into each other.
My feedback would be is to balance between describing, showing and telling. Sometimes I felt it was more of a history book, so the pace was slow in between. However, in the next sequel, I would like to see more emphasis on more political intrigue, more maneuvering, more action and less describing and telling.
Overall, I’d give this 4/5 for a solid effort. Aidan has done more research than anyone ever could, and I think he’s done more of a fantastic job with this novel. Although I would say that in the next novel he focuses the story in the Pendulum genre and make the story more important while keeping the main aesthetic of the historical detail at hand. If you like Egyptian court politics, and drama this is for you.
This is like Steven Saylor’s Empire, only in much more detail.
Worth the recommendation and thank you, Aidan, for creating a work of art!