The Ancient Egyptian gods have defeated all the other pantheons and claimed dominion over the earth, dividing it into warring factions. Lt. David Westwynter, a British soldier, stumbles into Freegypt, the only place to have remained independent of the gods’ influence. There, he encounters the followers of a humanist leader known as the Lightbringer, who has vowed to rid mankind of the shackles of divine oppression. As the world heads towards an apocalyptic battle, there is far more to this freedom fighter than it seems...
Late last year I reviewed both Redlaw and Redlaw:Redeye, two books written by James Lovegrove with a vampire inspired urban fantasy theme. But before they were published, James Lovegrove had already written many other books, and his Pantheon series - also published by Solaris - has always been high up in my to-read list. I am a huge fan of deity-inspired books and although there are quite a few on the market I haven’t seen any others which place a heavy emphasis on the military aspect.
The Age of Ra starts off with quite the military scene, showing the main protagonist, David, involved in a heated battle and argument. Already from this start on it is noticeable that the universe in which this story takes place is unique and a little out of the ordinary. The tone is really set with everything revolving around the Egyptian pantheons. There is a division among the countries, where some are followers of Osiris, others of Set and again others for Nephthys. The presence of each deity is shown by some “magical” influence, the soldiers still have the basic plain rifles with bullets but each god grants the followers the ability of ba energy that can be utilized in ba lances, or even used in several vehicles; tanks, helicopters, etc.
As you continue reading you soon find out that there is more to the whole Egyptian influence behind the story, with a nice elaboration of the Egyptian gods themselves and the effort they put into eradicating the other pantheons, so as to become sole rulers of the Earth. The one god that overlooks everything is Ra. I found that his intermezzo’s, where you see him on his Solar Barque telling the story from how he perceives everything just amazing and definitely added another layer to the book. There is a strong thread from the chapters where you follow Ra and the other gods of the pantheon and the chapter that follow David on Earth. The major influence that I could detect was more like of action / reaction, where the influences of the Egyptians gods were reflected at ground level.
The presence of the human Lightbringer throws off all the gods and is a direct threat to them all. The only place on Earth that is not influenced by the remaining Egyptian gods is called Freegypt, where the Lightbringer resides and where he is building an army to overthrow to sole ruling pantheon. Now I've got to come back a bit to the beginning of the storyline. I already mentioned David and how he was the main protagonist. David, after a hefty confrontation, stumbles on Freegypt and is a bit put off by how they are all non believers in the remaining gods. In picking up his life in Freegypt he does encounter the famous Lightbringer and soon finds out what he has planned and what he truly is. I found this last part greatly integrated and a rather unexpected entry into the book, and on the whole level, with the strong influences of the Egyptian gods AND the way the gods were shown among each other with arguments and fights this made full sense.
James Lovegrove takes a lot of time in explaining and highlighting both the Egyptian pantheon and the human sides, with David and the Lightbringer. His writing style is very to the point but it also produces a certain feeling of completeness where, even though it is short, you do get to know a lot about each character and several of the gods, with nice world building information and backgrounds of each one.
The Age of Ra is just what I have come to appreciate of James Lovegrove and his stories, it simply delivers an action-packed, straight to the point story, mashing-up the classical Egyptian pantheon with a heavy military theme. This combination did produce a slightly weird story but you just have to open to it and just let it guide and you will discover that this is a truly unique and fresh take on fantasy.
Review by Jasper de Joode
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