Kamen is a young man whose past is shrouded in mystery. Adopted as a baby into the household of Men, a wealthy merchant, he enjoys all the advantages and privileges of life as a member of Egypt’s upper classes.
As a junior officer in the army of Ramses III, he is sent one day on a routine assignment to southern Egypt with one of Pharoah’s heralds. On their return to the Delta they are forced to put in for one night at Aswat; a small, poor village most officials try to avoid as they ply their business up and down the Nile. For at Aswat they are likely to be accosted by a madwoman who endeavours to press upon them a box containing the story of her life. She begs them to deliver it to Pharoah himself, but no one has ever agreed until Kamen, in a moment of compassion, accepts the box.
His innocent pity sets in motion a series of events that will change his life forever. Regretting his moment of weakness, he gives the box to his superior, General Paiis, and from then on neither he nor the woman of Aswat are safe, for the General sends him south again. This time his instructions are to assist in the arrest of the woman for being a public nuisance, but as he sails south Kamen comes to realize that he is travelling with an assassin whose orders are to murder both the woman and himself.
Why is the General concerned with the fate of one insane peasant woman? What threat does she pose and what does the box contain? In this sequel to the story of Thu, the foundations of the Egyptian nobility are shaken. As Kamen struggles to save Thu and himself, and to unravel the secret of his birth, the perpetrators of a plot against the Horus Throne that has remained hidden for seventeen years are finally brought to justice.
“Ancient history comes alive and stays that way. Gedge excels at setting the scene and subtly evoking a sense of the period as she tells a timeless story… First-class historical fiction.” – Kirkus Reviews
“It is one of Gedge’s strengths that she never lets the reader forget the Egypt outside the capital and the river that sustains it. She has a talent for description that brings Egypt to life and for characterization, even with minor characters.” – Saskatoon Star Phoenix
“Pauline Gedge’s strengths – imagination, ingenuity in plotting, and convincing characterization – are here in abundance.” – Books in Canada
“Canadian author Pauline Gedge demonstrates her fine eye for historical detail in House of Illusions. Told in three voices, the story glitters with visual detail: landscape, architecture and furnishings, clothing and jewelry, foods, baths, the contrast between opulence and poverty.” – Herald Sunday
“Bestselling author Pauline Gedge gives historical fiction a good name. This vivid and absorbing drama builds with every page. Gedge’s gifts as a storyteller include full-blooded characterizations and vivid detail that brings ancient Egypt gloriously to life.” – Publishers Weekly
Pauline’s notes on Illusions
I had been perfectly happy with the punishment I had meted out to Thu, an ambitious, regicidal little minx with one murder already under her belt before she tried to kill the King. I was ready to move on to a new work when I began to receive letters from readers who were clearly distressed with Thu’s fate. “You can’t leave her there!” was one comment that became indicative of them all. Finally I felt compelled to take up Thu’s story again.
This time I wrote in three voices: that of a scribe who had known her well, that of her son, now grown, and that of Thu herself. I had not dealt with the plotters’ trial in House of Dreams. Thu’s fate, one I found entirely acceptable, had been decided privately by the King.
In this sequel the full extent of the plotters’ involvement was revealed, I took my readers through the whole judicial proceeding, and I hope that in the end I satisfied those who had lamented Thu’s earlier fate. I haven’t received any criticism to the contrary so I must have adequately rehabilitated her!
House of Illusions has been translated into French, German, Spanish, Swedish, Czech, Slovak, Turkish and Russian.