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Book Review: The Triumph of the Sun by Wilbur Smith

Colonization of poorer countries was at its zenith in the nineteenth century, especially of African countries. The Triumph of the Sun by Wilbur Smith brings forth a story from Sudan where the holy war starts to resist the national interest of British. Two cities Omdurman and Khartoum are divided by the Nile River. British govern the interest of Khartoum through Cairo, the capital of Egypt, also a colony of British to overlook the African affairs.


The rise of a Mahdi: a sort of prophet has stood to push the British and his most immediate desire is to siege Khartoum from the hands of British. After a few failed attempts, the Dervish army of Omdurman led by Osman Atalan, a ferocious Beja tribe warrior, attacks and defeats the army of Egypt and finally takes Khartoum under its control. They massacre the people and kill the General Gordon to take away his head as a prize trophy. The British Consul, David Benbrook, is brutally murdered and his two beautiful daughters (Rebecca and Amber) are taken as concubines in the harem of the Mahdi, while the third daughter Safron manages to flee with Ryder Courtney, a British trader, on his boat.

The British army led by Sir Charles Wilson fails to reach on time; as an upshot all is lost including the some important British persons being killed and the daughters of David Benbrook rendered orphans, staring at a hard uncertain future. During the peaceful time in Khartoum, Rebecca, the eldest daughter, surrenders her virginity to the captain Penrod Ballantyne from 10th Hussars. However, soon she gets to know that he is a womanizer since he has an affair with an Arabic whore. She then shifts her attention to Ryder: they fall in love and take oath to get married as soon as they are taken back to England.

After the attack they are separated. Ryder didn’t attempt to rescue Rebecca from the harem of the Mahdi. When the Mahdi dies, Rebecca is transferred to Osman Atalan. Penrod Ballantyne is an ambitious man with a well-developed instinct for self-preservation and survival; he knows what his course of action must be. Osman Atalan and Penrod Ballantyne are bitter enemy to one another. They had met at the battle of Abu Klea, since then Penrod is known as Abadan Riji (who never turns his back) in the camp of Osman.

Penrod Ballantyne doesn’t know whether he loves Rebecca or not? But his actions indicate he does. So he defies the orders of Sir Charles Wilson and comes in the city of Omdurman with his confidante Yakub. Their plan to rescue Rebecca was on the merge of materialization but at the last moment Yakub’s uncle plays the role of a spy, as result he is taken as POW in the camp of Osman Atalan, where he suffers inexplicable affliction. His struggle to survive impresses Osman Atalan and one day Penrod kills an elephant in just two shorts of swords. Next, Osman Atalan takes him into his group and forced him through a pact that he will never go against him. However, when Penrod is granted some laxity, he tries to convey messages to Rebecca about the rescue plan. Though he succeeds, but in the end caught by spies. He is taken back as a POW and again suffers the insurmountable pain. But soon he is rescued by Yakub, they take along with them Amber, and also invites Rebecca but she refuses as she was pregnant with the child of Osman Atalan.

After around thirteen years, Penrod comes back with a different army to siege Khartoum and Omdurman; he succeeds and in the process kills his all-time enemy Osman Atalan but Rebecca instead of going with him kills herself and promises Penrod to take her both children to a safe place.

A novel of great African adventure! For in Africa only the sun triumphs eternally. By showing Osman Atalan more powerful and shrewd than Penrod Ballantyne and other characters, Wilbur Smith underlines that colonization was as bad as any vile custom, no matter how brave and gallant characters it had produced.

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