Egypt rules half the world in alternate history ‘Three Princes’

three princes ramona wheeler
(Tor Books)

Ramona Wheeler has written a series of short stories for Analog magazine and quite a bit of non-fiction on ancient Egyptian mythology, art, and literature, but Three Princes is her first foray into a full-length novel. The premise of the book is that of an alternate history, circa 1877, with Egypt essentially ruling Europe, Africa, and Asia (with Russia ever the agent provocateur) and the Incan/Mayan civilizations ruling the New World continents. The story revolves around a series of political intrigues and machinations between Egypt and a variety of rivals.

Our heroes, Professor Mikel Mabruke, a prince of Nubia, and Lord Scott Oken, a prince of Britannia have teamed up on the orders of the Queen of Egypt to seek a scientific collaboration with the New World for an emerging rocket-based technology. En route, they encounter a number of adventures and meet up with an assortment of characters, both savory and unsavory. Mabruke and Oken are decently well-drawn, charismatic characters, who are great favorites with the gentlemen and ladies, respectively. In the Incan empire they meet up with Prince #3, Viracocha, whose is having troubles of his own related to familial hostilities.

The most enjoyable and inventive aspect of the book are the descriptions of the fictional evolutions of the sciences. The imagined technology for the cultures has progressed beyond the level of the ancients, however each society maintains its own recognizable flavor and is a plausible extraction to the modern, had it survived. Wheeler paints a vivid and compelling image of how things might have been had Egypt not fallen to the Greeks and Assyrians.

Three Princes, however suffered a bit from lack of focus and follow-through and ended up reading like a wandering series of partially unresolved short stories. At times, I felt the story had as many characters and plot-line intrigues as Game of Thrones. This is not necessarily a bad thing for a book of the average length in George R.R. Martin’s series, but is a real stretch for a novel of ~350 pages like Wheeler’s.

In summary, the dynamic duo of Oken and Mabruke show great promise, but they need to take dance lessons from the Bangles and “Walk Like an Egyptian” in a bit more of a straight line.

About Andrea Sefler

Andrea Sefler
Andrea is a consultant and technical writer for various scientific software and instrumentation companies. She has a Ph.D. in chemistry from Berkeley and has never met a genre of music or books that she hasn’t liked. As a gamer since the days of the Apple II, Andrea can relate any number of hair-raising tales about role-playing games stored on 360 kB 5.25” floppy disks and may, someday, put them to paper.

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