House of Illusions by Pauline Gedge is the sequel to House of Dreams. Both books make up the Lady of the Reeds duology and are ancient Egyptian fiction. I recommend reading my review for House of Dreams before this one. This review will have spoilers.
For many years, Thu has lived in exile, writing the tragic history of her life as the favourite concubine of Ramses III—and her role in the conspiracy to kill him. A young soldier, Kamen, has read her words and believes her testimony that she was not acting alone. When Kamen shows Thu’s manuscript to his general, he unknowingly sets in motion a stirring drama of revenge and punishment, miraculous disclosures, and unexpected vindication. House of Illusions is the stunning sequel to the bestselling House of Dreams, and brings Thu’s story to its surprising and dramatic conclusion.
I liked House of Dreams but I wasn’t in love with it. Unfortunately, I feel the same way about House of Illusions. It had a fantastic start but the ending ruined the entire book; I’ll discuss this more in a moment. Unlike House of Dreams that is completely told from Thu’s point of view, House of Illusions is told from multiple points of view. I don’t always enjoy this style but as I mentioned in my review for House of Dreams, Thu is extremely unlikable. I was pretty happy that I wouldn’t be stuck in her head for the entire book.
The story begins with Kamen. It’s clear early on that Kamen is Thu’s son. She was separated from him when she was exiled because of her part in the conspiracy to murder Ramses III. After learning the truth about his parentage, Kamen helps his mother return and forms a plan to exonerate her. However, Hui and his co-conspirators are determined to make sure their roles in the plot aren’t discovered… by any means necessary.
This book was really good until around the 75% point. Up until then, I enjoyed everything about it but it started to drag and the ending INFURIATED me. Hui and Thu end up together after all the others involved in the murder plot are discovered and put to death. For some unknown reason, Ramses III not only saves Hui’s life but he allows him to marry Thu… it’s just so stupid. Hui is the ENTIRE reason that Thu tried to murder the Pharaoh. He used and manipulated her repeatedly.
In House of Dreams, Thu didn’t want to get pregnant. Hui got annoyed with her and as punishment, instead of giving her fresh herbs to use as birth control, he gave her old ones. She inevitably got pregnant. This is just one of the many horrible things that Hui did to Thu. Literally every single bad thing that happened to her was because of him so no, I can’t be satisfied with an ending where they live happily ever after. I’m giving this book three stars but it would have been at least a four star read if not for that.
If you’re in the mood from some ancient Egyptian fiction, this duology isn’t bad. It was fast paced and fun, despite its flaws. I’m always interested in finding new books in this genre so let me know what I need to read next! Thanks for reading and have a great day!