Review: Pharaoh’s Bed by Mukami Ngari (2019)

Nubia Love Series, Book 1

Heat Factor: Not exactly closed door, but not particularly 

Character Chemistry: They’re reincarnated lovers so not much opportunity for chemistry growth

Plot: Pharaoh kidnaps rebellious vassal prince’s bride before marriage is consummated…but they were lovers in a past life

Overall: Has some good meat but tells rather than shows

In one of those, “this is something very different, I’ll one-click it” moments, I acquired this book. Thank you, Instagram. While I am a history person, ancient history has never been my bailiwick, so while I bought this book based almost entirely on the fact that it is set in ancient Egypt and is written by an African (Kenyan, I believe, if you’re interested) author, it is way outside my wheelhouse. I had to draw on my travels in Egypt and whatever my husband (who is an ancient history buff) periodically decides to impart to provide a good basis of understanding of the history and culture we’re dealing with here. Given that, in addition, we’re dealing with a mystical ancient Egypt (the titular pharaoh has magic powers, although he doesn’t use them all that much), if you’re not very well-versed in ancient Egyptian or Nubian, etc. history, as with any mysticism applied to a culture, go into reading this with a healthy dose of fun-with-a-side-of-skepticism. In terms of my admittedly limited knowledge of the period and my Googling while reading, the historical components seem to be well researched. 

We’ve got a few things going on in this book:

  1. The prince of Aksum (basically modern-day Ethiopia-ish) has decided to get married and chooses from all the women in the land…a beautiful but not particularly elegant shepherdess, Maa.
  2. The prince of Aksum is effectively a vassal of the pharaoh who rules Kemet (a name for ancient Egypt), and he has decided to rebel against the pharaoh with the help of the pharaoh’s rival, the ruler of Kush (a.k.a. Nubia-ish, a.k.a. Modern-day Sudan-ish). 
  3. The pharaoh, Lamani, and Maa are reincarnated lovers. It’s a whole thing. They can’t be together in this life because bad things will happen.

Given the warring kingdoms and the concubine-not-wife relationship that will result in all the bad things for Lamani and Maa, there was a ton of room for drama and emotional angst. But there wasn’t any, and this was largely due to the prose. I generally look for books to show, not to tell. What this means is that I don’t want simply to be told “he was feeling X” and “she was feeling X”, I want the words to wrap me in an emotional cocoon that evokes for me all the feelings that the characters are experiencing. If an author can make me feel without explicitly telling me what the characters are actually feeling, that’s the really good stuff. There are a hundred opportunities for angst and drama in this book, so the fact that I feel it could have wrung me out but didn’t is a disappointment. Everything brushed on, one thing to the next, in a flat and disconnected manner. 

For example, Maa is in the prince’s bedroom in the palace at Aksum following her marriage when the palace is attacked by the pharaoh. And the whole account of the siege of the palace and of Aksum is… 308 words. It is largely summed up by these three sentences, after Maa is dragged out of her bedroom: 

Blood had spluttered all over the hallway. She trembled as they walked over a couple of dead people, recognizing some of them as Prince Omek’s warriors. If this was a dream, she prayed the gods to wake her up now. 

I’m really not in favor of words and description for their own sake, but here we are bordering on text without affect. And it’s all like that. We are routinely told that things are but not why. Given the underlying substance of a doomed romance fraught with political tension, the lack of embellishment that engages the reader’s emotions is a bummer. 

Buy Now: Amazon

We have a lot of tropey goodness here! Here are other books with similar tropes:

We are DESTINED to be together (with a side helping of reincarnation)

Kidnapping seems like a great start to a relationship

The power dynamic between us is decidedly unequal

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