Khai of Khem
by Brian Lumley
Category: Fiction / Fantasy
320 pages; ISBN: 0765310473
Rating: 9/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner
Khai of Khem
Tor, Oct 2004, $24.95, 320 pp.
As the son of the royal chief architect, Khai Ibizin grows up believing that the Pharaoh Khasathut, ruler of Khem, is a god until he actually meets the man as a pathetic old man who cares only for young virgins to share his bed and obtain the eternal life. Having no respect for the God that fell from his mental pedestal, Khai defies the Pharaoh and flees to nearby Kush where he meets Queen Ashtarta, who gives him sanctuary.
Ashtarta and Khai fall in love and plan to marry. However, war between her country and that of Khem is imminent. Ashtarta looks into a magic pool seeing something she does not comprehend. Khai is in a weird locale where silver birds fly humans inside their stomachs and carts with people inside their bellies move without animals amongst other strangeness. The Pharaoh's wizards have sent Khai’s ka into the distant future; if not returned soon he will die. Khai's friend Manek Thotak is sent forward by Ashtarta’s wizards to bring Khai’s ka home. In modern day London Khai lives as Egyptologist Paul Arnott with knowledge of how weapons work.
This is a reprint of a 1980s action packed tale in which Ancient Egyptian belief elements seem genuine. The key players (a withered pharaoh, a heroic champion, a benign queen, and a sacrificing friend) are all fully developed whether they are in the “present” or in late twentieth century England. However, what makes the tale still strong is the time paradox of whether Khai’s return to the past could change “future” history by bringing back modern day knowledge to Ancient Egypt.
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