The author is the successful writer of more than 50 books in his career. All of them are well written, equally well researched and generally set in a tumultuous period of history. One of his characteristics is the creation of characters that are larger than life be they hero or villain. In many cases he has utilized families in his novels as the centerpieces to the story. King of Kings utilizes two of the families created in other books and is the continuation of a novel bringing them together. These are Penrod Ballantyne who is a professional soldier; a major in the British army during the late 1800s and Ryder Courtney an adventurer and met looking to set up a silver mine. The period is during the time when England’s general Gordon was regent in Khartoum and was assassinated by a native army led by the Mahdi and his army of dervishes. It reaches climax when the British sent General Herbert Kitchener to retake the city via a battle at Omdurman and therefore conquers the Sudan for his country.
We meet Ballantyne at the moment that he has a fight with his fiancee and she sends him away. At the same time Courtney is married to the sister of the fiancee and she goes with him in search for the silver mine. The novel is pure Wilbur Smith high adventure played out in Ethiopia during a period when it’s rulers fluctuated between natives and invading armies of both Italy and than England. The question of whether Penrod will win his fiancee back is tied in neatly to the events depicted in the novel. In addition what problems does Ryder face if he finds a producing silver mine in the middle of a country facing war from every side. Can it successfully be developed in a land where the rule of law changes continuously?
Readers of Smith’s books will also expect problems to arise that are above those posed and these must be faced and fixed along with all the other troubles faced by the protagonists. As indicated there several evil individuals present who are really really evil and contribute to a well done novel presented by a gifted author.
7/19 Paul Lane
KING OF KINGS by Wilbur Smith. Zaffre (April 2, 2019). ISBN 978-1499862010. 464p.