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Queen Of The Dawn: A Love Tale Of Old Egypt
by H. Rider Haggard
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Sir H. Rider Haggard (1856-1925) is an important progenitor of modern fantasy and science fiction, and his numerous novels include the classics King Solomon's Mines (1885), She (1886), and Ayesha: The Return of She (1905). If Haggard did not originate the lost-world/lost-race subgenre, he popularized it; and the hero of most of his books, Allan Quatermain, is the model for Tarzan, John Carter of Mars, and Indiana Jones. Unlike Edgar Rice Burroughs and Stephen Spielberg, however, Haggard spent several years in Africa. Though he was a product of his time, a white male colonialist, he didn't entirely buy into the concepts of the white man's burden, the glories of Empire, or the simple, faithful black servant; his work is more complex and ironic than you might expect.
However, newcomers to Haggard's fiction should start with the famous novels and not with his standalone ancient-Egyptian fantasy, Queen of the Dawn (1925). The last book published in Haggard's lifetime, it is (perhaps not surprisingly) overweighted toward Spiritualist concerns. It opens at an almost breakneck pace, with Pharaoh deposed and killed, his wife and child in hiding, and the goddesses stirring; but then comes a long, arid stretch in which a secret religious order raises Pharaoh's daughter, and she meets and falls in love with the usurper's disguised son. Narrative tension is further weakened by the priest-prophets' tendency to announce that an imminent disaster will turn out okay for the prince and princess. The climax features traditional adventure-fiction excitement (battle and torture), but this isn't a novel likely to please many modern readers. --Cynthia Ward
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