The Eyes of Pharaoh
The Eyes of Pharaoh is ideal for use in elementary and middle school classrooms or by homeschooling students studying ancient Egypt. Spellbound River Press is providing extensive Lesson Plans with material aligned to the Common Core State Standards. Teacher Suzanne Borchers says, “I teach a gifted class of fourth and fifth graders. Using this historical fiction is a window into Ancient Egypt—its people, culture, and beliefs. My class enjoyed doing research on Egyptian gods and goddesses, and hieroglyphs. Projects extended their knowledge of this fascinating time and place. I also highly recommend it for its fast-paced plot, interesting and ‘real’ characters, and excellent writing.”
Chris Eboch is the author of over 40 books for young people, including The Well of Sacrifice, a historical drama set in ninth-century Mayan Guatemala, which is used in many schools. Kirkus Reviews said, “The novel shines not only for a faithful recreation of an unfamiliar, ancient world, but also for the introduction of a brave, likable and determined heroine.”
The Eyes of Pharaoh is sure to reach readers in the same way. The dangers and intrigues of the time echo in the politics of today, while the power of friendship will touch hearts both young and old. “This story shows how today’s kinds of conflicts play out in another time and place,” says SC Poe of Route 19 Writers. “Seshta must compete with sly fellow students who seem fresh out of Dance Moms; Horus’s brilliant toy designs are claimed by his boss; every foreign face looks dangerous.”
To help teachers in the classroom, extensive Lesson Plans provide material aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
Reviewed By Mamta Madhavan for Readers’ Favorite
The Eyes of Pharaoh by Chris Eboch is a story with Egypt as its backdrop. It revolves around three interesting characters, Seshta, Horus and Reya. Each one of them has dreams but still their bonding is strong. The plot takes a turn when Reya tells Seshta and Horus that Egypt is in danger before he disappears. Seshta and Horus find themselves on a path where they have to try to escape from being trapped and not only rescue Reya but also save Egypt. Set in ancient Egypt, the story not only speaks about the friendship between the three friends but also gives a peek into the culture and history of ancient Egypt.
I found the book fascinating for many reasons. It is informative and educational and it is not only about Egypt but also about friendship and loyalty. The many dimensions in the plot make it an engaging read. The characters are relatable and the author's writing gives a good pace to the story. The twists and turns in the plot make it a compelling read. The setting of the story shows the extensive research the author must have done to make it enjoyable to readers. The mystery that runs through the plot is intriguing and the images are vivid. The author does an excellent job by bringing ancient Egypt to life through this story and giving readers a lot of information about the beliefs that existed in society during that period, as well as the culture and history.
About The Eyes of Pharaoh
1177 BC: During the reign of Pharaoh Ramses the Third, Seshta, a 13-year-old dancer in the Temple of Hathor, dreams of becoming a famous entertainer. Horus, the brother of her heart, is content as a toymaker’s apprentice. Reya, at 16, has joined Egypt’s army with hopes of becoming a hero. Despite their different paths, nothing can break the bonds of their friendship.
When Reya hints that Egypt is in danger from foreign nomads, Seshta and Horus don’t take him seriously. How could anyone challenge Egypt?
Then Reya disappears. Seshta and Horus set out to find him—and discover a darker plot than they ever imagined. To save their friend, Seshta and Horus spy on merchants, soldiers, and royalty, and start to suspect even The Eyes of Pharaoh, the powerful head of the secret police. Will Seshta and Horus escape the traps set for them, rescue Reya, and stop the plot against Egypt in time?
Set in ancient Egypt, the ideas in this book echo in the international politics of today, while the power of friendship will touch hearts both young and old. Suitable for ages 9 and up.
Year Seven, Day Five of the First Month of Summer
in the reign of Pharaoh Ramses the Third
Seshta ran. Her feet pounded the hard-packed dirt street. She lengthened her stride and raised her face to Ra, the sun god. Her ba, the spirit of her soul, sang at the feel of her legs straining, her chest thumping, her breath racing.
She sped along the edge of the market, dodging shoppers. A noblewoman in a transparent white dress skipped out of the way and glared.
Seshta glimpsed women sitting cross-legged beside large baskets, peddling sandals, flat bread, or linen dresses. She heard voices raised in argument and in laughter. The smell of roasting lamb from a street stand brought saliva to her dry mouth.
Two soldiers stopped in mid-conversation to watch Seshta pass. One of them called out, “Hey, pretty girl, what’s your hurry?”
Seshta grinned but didn’t slow. Why walk when you could run?
She held up her linen dress and hurdled a pile of manure and garbage reeking in the sun. The sunlight grew brighter as she left the narrow market streets, and she caught a whiff of decaying reeds.
At the docks, Seshta turned onto a wide dirt path. She ran upstream, dodging sailors and travelers. Ships crowded the riverbank. Their square sails rose above wooden hulls painted blue, red, white, and green. Merchants shouted orders to the men loading or unloading their ships.
The bustle faded as she reached the edge of the city and ran between the riverbank and golden fields of grain. Seshta eased her pace, letting the voice of her heart slow.
She loped to the last pier, one large enough only for fishermen and their small craft. At the end, her friend Horus lay on his stomach, peering over the edge at the water. Seshta flopped down beside him. He glanced over, his black eyes smiling in a broad face tanned as dark as the river’s mud. His shaved scalp gleamed brown in the sun.
Seshta took a deep breath and released it. The breeze dried the sheen of sweat on her skin. “Greetings, oh most talented of youths.”
“A glorious day to you, graceful maiden of the great goddess Hathor.”
Seshta grinned and gave up the mock formality. “What are you doing?”
Horus leaned over the water, pulled on a string, and hauled in a wooden boat as long as his hand. He passed it to Seshta and she studied the replica of the swift racing ships loved by rich nobles. The toy was unpainted but perfect in every detail, with a linen sail and delicate rigging. The center held an open cabin. The prow curved up into a carved ram’s head. The boat needed only a miniature crew to bring it to life.
“It’s wonderful!” Seshta said. “You’ll sell that in no time.”
“If Sunero thinks it’s good enough, he’ll finish it and put it in the shop.”
“Hah! Sunero doesn’t want to admit that you’re already a better toymaker than he is. He’s afraid he’ll lose you as his apprentice—and the money your toys bring him.”
Horus shrugged. “Sunero keeps my family fed.”
“You’ve given him five years. You should have your own shop now.”
“When is your contest?”
Seshta smiled and let him change the subject. Horus believed his place was determined by the gods, though she thought he deserved more from life. “Six days. The high priestess is working us harder than ever. I have this new acrobatic move I’ve only been practicing in private. Nothing short of a magic spell will keep me from winning that contest.”
A shout came from behind them. “Greetings!”
Seshta sprang to her feet and waved to their friend Reya as he drifted toward them in a small skiff of bound papyrus reeds. He poled the skiff up to the dock and tossed the mooring rope to Seshta. She wrapped it around a post while Horus propped himself on one elbow to watch.
Seshta grinned as Reya vaulted onto the pier. Above his white kilt, the muscles of his chest and arms gleamed like bronze in the late-afternoon sun. He was three years older than Horus and Seshta, a man now at sixteen, and she always felt proud that he still chose to see his childhood friends.
Reya’s teeth flashed white in his handsome face. He dropped a pair of brown and white geese at Horus’s feet and said, “For your mother, with my compliments.”
Horus picked up the dead birds. “Look how plump they are!”
Seshta said, “And you have nothing for a maiden of the temple of Hathor?”
Reya pulled her toward him and kissed her cheek. “Just my undying affection.”
Seshta sniffed. “I don’t know if I can persuade the goddess to accept such a cheap offering.”
“Keep it for yourself, then.”
“My mother will be delighted,” Horus said. “And my sister. Your gifts are a blessing to them.”
Reya shrugged. “It gives me an excuse to hunt.” He pulled a sling from the waistband of his kilt and fitted a pebble into the woven pouch. He squinted at the next pier, some thirty paces away, swung the sling around his head by the straps, and let the pebble fly. It hit the post of the other pier with a thunk that carried across the water. Two sailors chatting on that pier jumped and looked around.
Seshta yawned and tried to look unimpressed.
Reya laughed. He turned to Horus. “Is your sister well?”
“Oh, yes. Webkhet is getting quite plump from your meat. She and Mother will miss you when your battalion goes to the field. Seshta and I will, too.”
“Yes,” Seshta said. “Life will be so dull without you to cause trouble. Do you know yet how much longer you’ll be in town?”
Reya leaned toward them and whispered, “Maybe forever. Maybe I won’t go back to the battlefields.”
“Really?” Seshta tried to disguise her pleasure. “Didn’t they want you once they heard you snore?”
He pinched her side and she yelped.
Reya waggled his eyebrows. “I have bigger plans. Stay by me, little girl, and you won’t have to win that contest to meet royalty.”
“Oh, no, what are you up to?”
He blinked wide, innocent brown eyes at her. “Who, me?”
Seshta shrugged and wandered off a few steps. “I don’t suppose it’s anything important. You’re probably just bragging again.”
In a singsong voice, Reya taunted, “I have a secret and Seshta doesn’t know it.”
She stamped her foot. “Oh! You donkey!”
Laughing, Reya grabbed her and twirled her around. “Sorry, my princess, but this I can’t share, even with you.”
“Why did you say anything if you didn’t want to tell us?” Horus said. “Give her a hint or she’ll go crazy.”
Reya held Seshta at arm’s length. “All right. One word, and that’s it. If I give you this hint, you have to promise not to ask more. Strange forces are at work, and it could be dangerous for you to know too much. And you can’t let anyone else know what we’ve said.”
She sighed deeply and rolled her eyes. “Fine. What’s your silly hint?”
Reya glanced around as if making sure no one else could hear him. “Libu.”
“What?” Seshta snorted. “Who cares about those smelly heathens? They have nothing to do with us.”
Reya’s grip tightened on her arms. He stared into her eyes, his smile gone. “When you’re at the center of the world, everyone cares about you, and that’s enough.”
Seshta squirmed out of his grasp. She rubbed her arms where he’d held her. “Egypt is the only country that matters. The Libu are Sand Dwellers, desert nomads, wandering cow-herders.”
“They’re warriors who see Egypt as a land where wine and oil flow freely. They want what we have.”
“Look, I know you have to fight our enemies sometimes, but they could never win. Everyone knows Egypt is the most favored of all the lands and will reign in glory forever.”
Reya shook his head. “Just because everyone knows it doesn’t make it true.”
Seshta sighed. “I have better secrets than that, and more important things to worry about than what’s happening in strange foreign lands.”
Reya smiled. “Yes, your big contest. All right, let’s see what you can do. Give us a show.”
Seshta took a few steps backward. She pulled off her linen dress and tossed it aside to dance bare, as all dancers did. She didn’t have the long, braided wig that would brush the ground when she did a backbend. She wasn’t wearing the strings of beads around her waist, wrists, and ankles that would rattle to the rhythm of the music. She didn’t even have music to guide her, but Seshta raised her face to the sun and smiled.
She heard the music in her mind and began to sway. She tapped her feet on the pier, dancing intricate steps as light as the feather of truth. Her arms wove patterns through the air.
As the music in her mind swelled, she added leaps and spins. She did a backbend, and from there kicked her feet up into a handstand. She balanced, with her legs straight up, for three long breaths, then arched her back and bent her knees. Still balanced on her hands, she formed her body into a circle, until her toes brushed the back of her head. Then she bent her arms to lower herself until her chest touched the wooden pier. She rolled down to her knees.
The sun god seemed to pour his rays into her. Her ba soared like a bird.
Still kneeling, Seshta kept dancing, her hips swaying, back arching, arms caressing the air. Finally she leaned back, slowly, until her head rested on the ground. She stayed there, eyes closed, letting the joy of the dance wash over her.
Then the cheering started. Seshta’s ba settled into her body like a tired pigeon coming home to a cozy roost. She opened her eyes, sat up, and smiled. Several people along shore had stopped to watch. Seshta gave a regal nod.
“Fantastic!” Horus said.
Reya shook his head. “Who would think such a little girl could dance like that?”
Seshta frowned and turned away to retrieve her dress. She was a better dancer because she was so slim. Many of the girls had to give up acrobatics when they grew heavy with women’s curves. But she was not a little girl.
She pulled on her dress and turned to the boys with a smile to hide her irritation.
“You’re really too good for the temple,” Reya said. “It’s a pity more people can’t watch you.”
Seshta’s smile widened. Should she tell him her dream? She stepped toward him. “Do you know what I really want?”
Reya dragged her across the pier in a clumsy dance. “A handsome soldier for a husband?”
Seshta giggled. “Don’t be silly.”
“Come, my sweet, I will make you queen of all Egypt. Well, of Waset. All right, our neighborhood. At the very least, you shall be queen of my house. Or those parts of it not already claimed by my mother.”
Seshta pushed him away. “You’re impossible.”
“No, just very, very difficult.” He turned to gaze at the sun as it dropped toward the western horizon, standing as if posing for a royal statue. “I must go. I have dangerous work ahead. I should have seen the general the moment I discovered the situation, but I wanted to see you two first… just in case something goes wrong and I don’t return.”
Seshta and Horus looked at each other and shook their heads.
“Will you be here tomorrow?” Reya asked.
“I can be,” Seshta said, “if the priestess is satisfied with our work early enough.”
Reya kissed her cheek, patted Horus’s smooth head, and stepped into his skiff. Horus leaned over to untie the mooring rope.
“Tomorrow, then,” Reya said, “and I’ll have news. Remember, not a word to anyone else.”
His face clouded. He looked suddenly much older. “You’ll see whether foreign lands matter or not.” He grabbed the pole and pushed off. The skiff skimmed along the water while the river turned golden in the evening sun.
“You don’t think he really knows something serious?” Seshta asked.
Horus hesitated. “Reya likes to show off. It’s probably nothing important.”
Seshta nodded. “I’d better head back to the temple. We’re supposed to be resting.”
Horus laughed. “You work harder at rest than most people do at their work.”
Dancing never felt like work to Seshta. She longed for the freedom to do nothing but dance, to practice all day and perform all night.
She had to win the contest.
Seshta inhaled air tinged with rich mud and the sweet scent of lotus blossoms. It was cooler now, but the last rays of the sun still warmed her skin. A flock of geese honked overhead as they flew off to their evening roost. Singing drifted across the water from a fisherman in a distant skiff. He draped his net like a black spiderweb over the rosy glow of sunset on the river.
How could any place else matter, compared to this perfection?
Seshta smiled at Horus, turned, and ran for home.