When Paleus is invited by the Egyptian prince, Amenhotep I, to paint a mural in the palace he is honored and also thrilled at the prospect of travel. Paleus is a much-revered artist in Kaptaria, an island on Knossos, and is even married to the Minoan king’s daughter, Adina. Paleus and Adina are accompanied by his childhood friend Galanthus, sister Maia and her son Darian, and Sylvus, the prince of Kaptaria. Their journey is smooth until they reach Egypt, where they quickly become a part of rebellions and revenge plots. Soon, Paleus and Galanthus are forced to take action to save not just themselves but the Egyptian king himself.
David McCormick has a good sense of place and displays his in-depth knowledge of ancient Egypt with interesting contextual information and descriptions of the culture, customs, and people. Paleus’ journey along the Nile is powerful and the reader is given an evocative introduction to the geography and wildlife around the Nile, along with glimpses of life along the sacred river. McCormick also does a good job of immersing the reader in the vast, deep religious belief system of the ancient Egyptians, with detailed descriptions of the temples and everything associated with them. But although the story makes for an interesting enough read to keep the reader turning pages, there is a distinct lack of solid characterization. Conversations are stilted, and don’t sound very natural and plot progression is choppy. There is much scope to showcase the emotional bond between Paleus and Galanthus or explore the relationship between Paleus and Adina, for instance. The attack against the Egyptian king too happens in a rushed fashion with no time to absorb the thoughts or events that led up to it. In short, McCormick has hit the right notes in terms of elements of the plot but they need to be developed a lot more.
This is unfortunate because the storyline and the setting of THE GODS ARE WATCHING are both intriguing. There are many stories set in ancient Greece or Rome but Egypt is rare. McCormick has chosen a fertile ground with great potential but a more detailed plot and characterization–would have made for a more enrapturing tale. Additionally, a few spelling errors and typos don’t serve to make it any better. Despite these drawbacks, THE GODS ARE WATCHING is readable and perfect for a quick, history fix. McCormick’s familiarity with Egyptian life and traditions in 16th century BC is admirable and adds some heft to the novel. Reader’s would do well to read The Dark Labyrinth, the prequel to this book, before getting around to THE GODS ARE WATCHING to make it a more wholesome experience.
David McCormick’s THE GODS ARE WATCHING is an engaging and intriguing historical novel set in the well-researched backdrop of ancient Egypt.
~Swati Nair for IndieReader