Book Review: Out of the Black Land by Kerry Greenwood

Out of the Black LandOut of the Black Land
Kerry Greenwood
Poisoned Pen Press, February 2013
ISBN: 978-1-464-20038-0
Also available in trade paperback

Ancient Egypt; the land of power, luxury and intrigue. Soon-to-be Princess Mutnodjme rallies against expectations and forges her own path no thanks to her manipulating mother. Ptah-hotep finds himself thrust suddenly into a position of power that threatens his life and the lives of those he loves. Together, they must traverse the dangers of Egyptian life when the new, mad King plunges Egypt into despair. Will they survive in a world where anyone can be an enemy?

Out of the Black Land was a book that initially made me apprehensive when I saw three pages of characters listed in Egyptian names that I was convinced I’d forget instantly. But the story itself is absorbing, full of mystery, intrigue and more back stabbing than a good old episode of Dallas. From the crazy Prince to the slightly shallow, but beautiful Nefertiti, this book is full of interesting and well-rounded characters. Told from two points of view, namely that of Mutnodjme and Ptah-hotep, the story criss-crosses between the two as their lives run parallel and then over each other, bringing them together in a desperate effort to return Egypt to stability.

I loved the fact that female characters in the book had a lot of power and freedom compared to most girls today. They had rights to land, power and marriage settlements and what’s more, they were listened to and afforded the respect of men and women, regardless of their age and position. In many ways, it seemed to be a society that was more accepting and tolerant than some you see today. Marriage was made more for political reasons than love and yet both partners were free to be in relationships with others without recrimination. Homosexuality was tolerated without prejudice or fear and the older generation were given much more respect than I’ve seen lately. So, in many ways, this book is very interesting because of how advanced the Egyptians were so many years ago compared to our own technologically advanced society. People had more value then compared to nowadays and yet the same forces drove them; money, position and health.

This title does give a very interesting insight into the lives of the ancient Egyptians but it would be much more suitable for a slightly older age group rather than younger readers. This is mainly due to the frequent sexual scenes within the book that are probably not far off the mark historically but may be unsuitable for younger readers. Let’s just say those Egyptians sure got around. But, sex scenes aside, this is basically just a really good book with a tight plot, full of interesting characters that are both believable and dynamic. I would certainly recommend it to older readers aged 17+.

Reviewed by Laura McLaughlin, May 2013.