Why I Abandoned a Whole Series

Posted on September 21, 2016 «
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Book Review
The Empire of Darkness by Christian Jacq

I have confessed before that I love reading historical fiction about Ancient Egypt. I’m certain that repeated viewing of The Ten Commandments starring a ripped Charleton Heston and a buff Yul Brenner are the cause of this fascination. I am drawn to these types of novels over and over again and years ago I encountered The Stone of Light series by Christian Jacq. He wove wonderful stories and I actively started seeking out his novels about Ancient Egypt which are difficult to find because they are in translation.

I acquired by first copy of The Empire of Darkness years ago and recall falling in love with the story. I was determined to finish the series, but it took some time to find the other two books in the series. Once I had The War of Crowns and The Flaming Sword the set languished on my shelves. In the past, I have been reluctant to re-read and I knew in order to get through books two and three, I would need a refresher by re-reading book 1.

In July, I found out that Fantasy is More Fun and Because Reading were hosting a “Can You Read a Series in a Month?” Challenge and I thought that The Queen of Freedom Trilogy would be the perfect candidate for the Challenge. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

What is hard about reading books in translation is that it is hard to determine if the weakness you observe in the novel were in the original text or a due to poor translation to English or due, in this case, to a part of history where little is known about the cast of characters.

The entire time I read The Empire of Darkness I felt as though I was just skimming the surface. The characters were one-dimensional caricatures. The tropes in this novel are strong.

Count the Tropes With Me

  1. The rebellious daughter/princess
  2. The poor boy who falls in love with the rebellious daughter/princess
  3. Insta-love
  4. The sick monarch
  5. Faithful pet sidekick
  6. The Evil Empire with two bad guys—one of them is bad because he is the new monarch trying to stifle the indigenous people and the other is truely evil as he exploits anyone who stands in his way of gaining power
  7. The death of a loved one which fuels the revolution
  8. Children living in the shadow of their famous dead parents(s)

I did make it through book 1 and in an effort to try and participate in the challenge, I dived right into book 2, The War of Crowns. I didn’t even make it through 50 pages before I started to suspect that perhaps this book was subject to a poor translation instead of being just poorly written in its native language.

You see in book one, Sequen (the poor boy) has a faithful pet sidekick, his donkey Long Ears. (Yeah, I know the characters are not well named. One of the rebels known solely as Mustache because well, he has a mustache.). And then on page 12 of The War of the Crowns, the donkey’s name is Way-Finder. There were also some plot elements that didn’t seem to quite match up between book one two. As a result, I dropped book 2 like a hot potato and marked it and book 3 as abandoned on GoodReads.

I honestly have no clue what I saw in The Empire of Darkness all those years ago. I can only assume that I have grown in my reading since this initial read through and expect a bit more from my picks than I did in the past.

The Quick Book Review

Why I Abandoned a Whole Series

The Empire Of Darkness

Author: Christian Jacq
Translator: Sue Dyson
Published on: July 1, 2003
Pages: 352
Series: Queen of Freedom #1
Genres: historical fiction, adult
Goodreads • Amazon Affiliate Link
My Rating: Thumbs Down

Why I Abandoned a Whole Series

War of the Crowns

Author: Christian Jacq
Translator: Sue Dyson
Published on: May 18, 2004
Pages: 320
Series: Queen of Freedom #2
Genres: historical fiction, adult
Goodreads • Amazon Affiliate Link
My Rating: Abandoned

Why I Abandoned a Whole Series

The Flaming Sword

Author: Christian Jacq
Translator: Sue Dyson
Published on: November 1st 2005
Pages: 320
Series: Queen of Freedom #3
Genres: historical fiction, adult
Goodreads • Amazon Affiliate Link
My Rating: Abandoned

About Christian Jacq

Christian Jacq is a French author and Egyptologist. He has written several novels about ancient Egypt, notably a five book suite about pharaoh Ramses II, a character whom Jacq admires greatly.

Jacq's interest in Egyptology began when he was thirteen, and read History of Ancient Egyptian Civilization by Jacques Pirenne. This inspired him to write his first novel. He first visited Egypt when he was seventeen, went on to study Egyptology and archaeology at the Sorbonne, and is now one of the world's leading Egyptologists.

By the time he was eighteen, he had written eight books. His first commercially successful book was Champollion the Egyptian, published in 1987. As of 2004 he has written over fifty books, including several non-fiction books on the subject of Egyptology.

He and his wife later founded the Ramses Institute, which is dedicated to creating a photographic description of Egypt for the preservation of endangered archaeological sites.

Between 1995-1997, he published his best selling five book suite Ramsès, which is today published in over twenty-five countries. Each volume encompasses one aspect of Ramesses' known historical life, woven into a fictional tapestry of the ancient world for an epic tale of love, life and deceit.

Jacq's series describes a vision of the life of the pharaoh: he has two vile power-hungry siblings, Shanaar, his decadent older brother, and Dolora, his corrupted older sister who married his teacher. In his marital life, he first has Isetnofret (Iset) as a mistress (second Great Wife), meets his true love Nefertari (first Great Wife) and after their death, gets married to Maetnefrure in his old age. Jacq gives Ramesses only three biological children: Kha'emweset, Meritamen (she being the only child of Nefertari, the two others being from Iset) and Merneptah. The other "children" are only young officials trained for government and who are nicknamed "sons of the pharaoh".

(from GoodReads)



8 responses to “Why I Abandoned a Whole Series

  1. Man that sucks! This is why I’m always so afraid to pick up books I once loved – they may end up ruined forever. But you were in a tricky situation, in that you wanted to finish the series… And to add to it the whole translation situation. Bummer! The good thing is, you did clear 2 books from your shelf pretty quickly 🙂

  2. I still remember the awful moment when my husband informed me that the Narnia books (which I had quite enjoyed as a child) were a thinly-veiled Christian polemic. And then I could see that it was so. And I could see the sexism, and the various other prejudices, all of which had completely passed me by at the age of 10.

    It does work the other way around, too: I abandoned one of the C.J. Sansom books years ago, and when I came back to it for my Shelf Love Challenge, I loved it.

    The thing is, books stay the same – usually. But you and the rest of the world changes. Like clothes, sometimes we grow out of books – or grow into them.

    Sometimes I wonder if I should go back and read, say, J.M. Faulker’s Moonfleet, which I hated with a passion when I had to read it for school. (Loved Jane Eyre, The Crucible, Macbeth, and so on – hated Moonfleet). Would I find it different now? Or would I hate it again, and if so, for the same reasons or different ones?

    • I HAD NO CLUE ABOUT NARNIA UNTIL HIGH SCHOOL!!! I devoured all 7 books in like 5th or 6th grade. And then my senior year in HS we produced the play The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The director mentioned it in an off-handed kind of way and my mind was blown.

      As for abandoning books and coming back to them, His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman.

  3. It’s too bad this didn’t end up being what you’d remembered/thought it would be, Terri. I hope it’s due to a poor translation but still it’s a shame if the book is well written and isn’t satisfying a larger audience. I’ve re-read only a few books that didn’t do it for me the second time around and I do think it’s because we grow as readers so things we felt were so profound may end up not being so profound. 😉 I applaud you for giving it a go and trying to finish the series but I do not fault you for abandoning it. Ooh, all those tropes! :/

    • The problem is 2 fold…1) bad/poor translation and 2) a hold in Ancient Egypt history. Not much is known about this timeframe and Jacq didn’t stretch himself to create the history including coming up with names. Mustache? Seriously?

  4. This is always what I dread when I start a series! I have given up on multiple series because I of disinterest.

    It sucks when we reread a book from our favorite series and then just feel ultimately disappointed after doing so.