Lengthy but seamlessly composed, this epic historical drama by veteran author Smith (The Eye of the Tiger, etc.) tracks a power struggle in ancient Egypt between false pharaohs and a true royal heir, evoking the cruel glories and terrible torments of the era. The kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt have been at war for 60 years. Upper Egypt is ruled by Tamose, Lower Egypt by Apepi, king of the Hyksos. Treachery and assassination eliminate both rulers, allowing two false pharaohs to unite in an orgy of tyranny and oppression. Tamose's son, Prince Nefer, is his father's rightful heir, but the false pharaoh, Lord Naja, denies Nefer's birthright and plots to kill the young prince. Aided by the royal sorcerer, a warlock named Taita, Nefer escapes Naja's plots. Nefer and Taita outwit assassins, evil magicians, pursuing armies and even the treachery of Nefer's own sister, as they raise their own army in the lost desert city of Gallala. Taita's magic spells and occult powers protect, teach and guide Nefer on his tortuous path to regain the throne and save the woman he loves, Princess Mintaka, daughter of slain King Apepi. However, as Nefer's strength grows, so does that of his enemies, and it will take all of Nefer's courage and Taita's mystical powers to prevail when the chariot armies of evil sweep across the desert wasteland to the gates of Gallala. This is a very bloody and violent yarn, set in an age when merciless combat, torture, rape and sacrifice were common. Though timorous readers may wish to steer clear, those willing to brave the blood and gore will be carried away by the sweep and pace of Smith's tale.