The Hippopotamus Marsh (Lords of the Two Lands)

The Hippopotamus Marsh is Volume I of the Lords of the Two Lands trilogy.  It was released as Lords of the Two Lands in the UK.

Hundreds of years under the oppressive foreign rule of the Setiu have stripped Egypt of its majesty. Seqenenra Tao, Prince of Weset, the true heir of the double crown, is pained to see his estate deteriorate and longs to restore the royal bloodline to its former glory.  King Apepa’s merciless taunting and humiliating requests are a poor disguise for his contempt of the prideful Tao family and their independence.

Cornered, the Prince of Weset must choose between complete submission to a foreign king or a daring uprising that is doomed to fail.  Seqenenra Tao’s shocking decision puts in motion a series of events that will either destroy his cherished home or resurrect a dynasty and an entire way of life for all of Egypt.

Review Excerpts for The Hippopotamus Marsh

“With its firm, confident control, light, easy style and strong characterization, this is perhaps the best piece Pauline Gedge has written.” – The Windstor Star

“From the first scene, the echoes of history resonate throughout the story.  Weset is haunted by the voices of ancestors and the ghosts of ancient glories.  It is a city permeated by a feeling of ‘solemn sadness’, a feeling internalized by the characters themselves, each carrying the burden of their history.  Gedge offers compelling character depictions… lovely use of language… a thoroughly readable novel.” – The National Post

“The fast-moving and thrilling action carries us along effortlessly and this first volume of the trilogy leaves us wanting  more.” – The Calgary Herald

“Fans of novelist Pauline Gedge will welcome this first novel of a new Egyptian trilogy… Gedge’s great strength is her ability to portray this ancient civilization in intimate detail with consistency and grace… [She] provides a convincing view of an ancient world.” – Quill & Quire

“Brilliantly researched… it will leave your tongue hanging out for more.” – The Chronicle (UK)

“Gedge is one of Canada’s finest historical novelists.” – Maclean’s Magazine

Pauline’s notes on the Lords trilogy

This story unfolded naturally in three parts, one leading seamlessly into the next, and was written as one large work before being divided.

When my elder son was young he became obsessed with mummies. He would comb my bookshelves looking for the most gruesome pictures he could find of the Egyptian dead, and then pore over them. I had no objection to his interest until he began to have nightmares, at which point I removed and hid the books.  The corpse he turned to most often was a famous one, the body of a Seventeenth Dynasty Prince called Seqenenra.

The evidences of his violent death are on his skull. There are five terrible wounds made by a battle axe – two on his forehead, one between his eyes, one near his temple and one on his left cheek below his eye. The death blow probably came from a spear-thrust behind his left ear.

However, Seqenenra’s hands are curled inward from the wrist and one leg is deformed, and there is evidence that the edges of the bone on the major wound just above his forehead were growing together again. Therefore he had been attacked some months before he finally died in battle; struck on the head with such force that his brain was affected and he was left maimed.

This man was very brave. In spite of his injuries he fought the first battle in a war against foreigners from the east who had taken advantage of a time of chaos and a weakened administration to conquer Egypt without resistance. We know them as the Hyksos. The native Egyptians called them Setiu.

Following the Twelfth Dynasty, which marked the end of the so-called Middle Kingdom in Egyptian history, there was a long period of political and social upheaval.  Order broke down.  The country became weak.  One ruler followed another, often so rapidly that they are considered to have been contemporaneous with each other.  For a long time foreign tribesmen living east of Egypt had been allowed into the lush fields of the Delta to temporarily pasture their animals.  However, taking advantage of this time of distress they began to settle in Egypt.  More of their compatriots followed.  Insinuating themselves into a febrile Egyptian government they soon achieved control of the country and began to rule from their Delta capital, Het-Uart, the House of the Leg.  The Setiu cared little for what went on in southern Egypt although they had established a military presence in the southern towns and relied on the governors, both foreign and native Egyptian, to maintain their hold.

For two hundred years they ruled the country.  But in the southern town of Weset, known to us as Thebes, there lived a Prince who traced his ancestry back to the original line of kings.  Because of this he and his four sons were a threat to Apepa, the Setiu who now occupied the Horus Throne.  But Prince Seqenenra had caused no trouble, paying his taxes to the usurper in Het-Uart and minding the business of his own corner of the country, until a letter arrived from Apepa that changed everything.

The first novel in the trilogy, The Hippopotamus Marsh, deals with Seqenenra and his doomed quest to free Egypt from the foreigners.  He was killed during his first battle with Apepa’s forces but his remaining sons, Kamose and the younger Ahmose, continued the fight.  Kamose is at the centre of the second novel in the trilogy and Ahmose is left to conquer or die in the third.

The women of Seqenenra’s family were heroes in their own right.  Altogether the tale of Egypt’s ultimate freedom through the bravery and sacrifice of one family whose members simply wanted to live free is one that captured and held my imagination and admiration.  The story unfolded naturally in three parts, one leading seamlessly into the next, and was written as one large work before being divided.  I have always enjoyed exploring military strategy and found pleasure in writing accounts of the various obstacles met and overcome by each man, particularly by Kamose, whose gradual progress towards the Delta with his army necessitated many heartbreaking decisions that eventually threatened his reason.

I also enjoyed trying to solve the few small mysteries that the history of this time does not explain for us.  How, for example, does one poison every source of water in a five-mile long oasis a hundred miles from civilization when the need to do so arises urgently and without warning?

Lords of the Two Lands was an exhausting labour of which I am truly proud.  The research is accurate and the characters drawn as closely to their ancient reality as is honestly possible.  I took a long break after typing ‘The End’.


All three novels in the Lords of the Two Lands trilogy have been translated into French, German, Spanish, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch and Hungarian.