River God, the first in the series, is a solid 5-star book, eminently
re-readable. Seventh Scroll gets 4 stars, Warlock 3. There seems to be
a trend here. I get the feeling that Smith took a lot more time in the
conception and the writing of River God than he did with this book.
There's just too much that doesn't hang together properly and which often
leaves a bad taste in your mouth--like biting into a spoiled part of an
The Nile in Egypt has dried up--the result of machinations by the evil
Eos, so Taita takes a very small force upriver to locate the problem.
It turns out that Eos has dammed the Nile where it leaves Lake Victoria.
Bizarrely, that does not seem to have raised the lake level at all, but
never mind. I kept thinking about how if someone dammed the Mississippi
close to its source, would the riverbed be dry at St Louis, New Orleans,
etc? The Nile does have other tributaries (such as the Blue Nile, etc),
but not as many as the Mississippi, of course. The plot device seems
A much weaker plot device--which carries the book through over 100 pages,
involves stem-cell therapy carried out by Eos' minions. Pregnant women
are killed and their bodies are fed to crocodiles. Taita is horrified
by this, but he is perfectly willing to reap the benefits--the restoration
of his genitals. Helping people restore lost genitals, eyes, limbs, etc,
seems quite out of character for the evil Eos. In fact, the sole reason
for this whole device is that Taita benefits and can now enjoy sex again.
He has sex with Eos (unnecessarily graphic--did Smith want to sell the
episode to Playboy or something?) and more importantly, he now can have
sex with his 12 (13?) year old companion. If Anna Nicole Smith's marriage
to a 90-year-old bothers you, try a 150-year-old Taita and his 12-year-old
mistress (I kept thinking that Taita shouldn't date anyone younger than
130 or so...).
Another puzzle centered around Taita's force of 100 troops--which quickly
shrank to about 20 or 30--not very much for such a long dangerous journey.
Fights with native tribes accounted for many of the losses: one of the
world's greatest magicians seems content to use his bow and arrows in
these fights--why not quick bloodless victories using his magic? There
are too many things that just do not feel right in this book--and this
is in very marked contrast to River God, where the action and plot hangs
together well and makes sense. River God has the feel of a carefully
crafted novel--which is in contrast to this book.