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The Reviews :: The Stone of Light - Nefer The Silent
Reviewed by Georgette Tan

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The whole world marvels at the works of art created by the Egyptians, from pyramids, temples and tombs to sculptures and paintings. But who brought these wonders into being? Whose spiritual power and magic is it that touches our hearts?

- Christian Jacq, The Stone of Light

French Egyptologist Christian Jacq, the author of the bestselling Ramses series, takes us from the court politics and majestic palaces of Egypt to the final resting place of the Pharaoh - the tombs.

For about five centuries (1550 to 1070 BC), there existed an elite brotherhood that consisted of both craftsmen and priests. They were responsible for the magnificent works of art found in pyramids, temples and tombs. The brotherhood and their families lived in a tightly-guarded village where outsiders are forbidden to enter - a village called The Place of Truth, also known as the place where the goddess Ma'at is manifested by the work carried out by these artists.

The brotherhood was a tight-knitted and tight-lipped one. It is very difficult to get in, not just because an exceptionally high degree of talent is required, but an artist must hear the call of the gods before he can take his place there.

Silent (yes, a guy called Silent) was raised in that village, destined to one day take his place there as another Servant of the Place of Truth. Unfortunately, he lacked one thing - he has yet to hear the call. Silent was no slacker in the talent and diligence department, as he showed during his pilgrimage out of the village to discover himself. He met the lovely Ubekhet and fell in love with her, but was torn between staying with her, and being unable to ignore the call once it comes.

Ardent was a farm boy who was not contented with his status in life. He also happened to be a very talented artist, and had only one objective in life - to draw and paint for the Pharaoh in the Place of Truth. Ardent was so singled-minded about his goal that being pitifully under-qualified and arrested twice for trying to gain entry did not deter him. Instead, he sought out people who had the knowledge and literally forced them to teach him, often surprising his masters with his quickness in learning and his apparent skill. Although this book is supposedly about Silent, it was often Ardent who stole the show with his deadpan seriousness and the reaction of people around him.

Their paths crossed for the first time when Ardent saved Silent from being beaten up by thugs. They did not meet again until several years later, after Silent newly gained entry to the Place of Truth, and Ardent was trying once again to get in. Silent and Ubekhet (who also conveniently heard the call and became a priestess of Hathor in the village) became great friends with Ardent as he toiled in the outer workforce, the group of people who supported the village by supplying the brotherhood with everyday services.

Meanwhile, Ramses was old and ailing, and an ambitious Theben officer named Mehy was plotting to overthrow the monarchy and discover the secret behind the Place of Truth. Mehy's wife Serketa, whom he married because her father was an influential man in Egypt, and who married him because she was bored, provided extra intrigue.

I must applaud the translator here. All of Jacq's novels were in written French, but I found the English version (the only version I understand) flawless in its delivery. If anything was lost during the translation, the original version must be out of this world.

Nefer the Silent is only the first book of the The Stone of Light series, and the beginning of the adventures of Silent and Ardent. Throw in the classic ingredients - a dash of mystery and intrigue, a pinch of romance, a devious plot to take over the world, and a handful of memorable characters that will rise to the occasion and save the day. For any fan of ancient Egypt, this book provides an intimate look into the culture and community of the brotherhood of the Place of Truth, history and entertainment in one package.

Rating: 4 Faeries
Christian Jacq
Translator: Sue Dyson

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