The Sunbird – Wilbur Smith


Wilbur Addison Smith is a British novelist specializing in historical fiction about the international involvement in Southern Africa across four centuries, seen from the viewpoints of both black and white families.

The story begin when Ben(an archaeologist and head of the archaeologist firm) and Louren(a multi-billionaire businessman and financier ) come across a aerial photograph an stumbles upon a great archaeological discovery of a lifetime.

Ben along with Sally his assistant and his team with help and funding from Louren move to city which is Opet which is translated into “City of the Moon”. Ben and Louren are and have been close friends as they studied in the same school. Ben is in love with Sally and intended to propose to her. Louren who is rich and used to getting all things his way, fell for Sally despite married to his fourth wife. Ben was called The Sunbird by the Xhai a member the tribe attributing to his behavior when he gets excited. He Jumps around like a bird when he makes a discovery or convey his excitement

With apt recruitment of team from time to time over the course of discovery, they found great paintings and cavern which told part of the story about the city and the people. But yet there was something more to this place which kept Ben and team in this place for long time. It took them time and research to identify the place where the written work of the people were found. Most of the work were about the accounting of the wealth that was gathered and amongst this treasure was few writing by Huy in golden sheets and saved in the pottery bottles. He had written great poems in the language that flourished in his time. The research didn’t just end there, with the curiosity and restlessness they found more about the people, story and the culture of the city. They managed to find the place where wealth was kept and burial tomb of the kings. But, the discovery came to abrupt stop as both Louren and Ben were exposed to a virus

The people of Opet have been very secretive and protective about their wealth, which were safeguarded with at most secrecy. The locking system were also very unique, opening of the place was part of the wall in the tunnel. Hence it is difficult to identify the opening and the symbol of sun god was used to open. They were also people who weren’t interested in art an related other activities, but concentrated more on gathering wealth and living a prosperous lives. The people of Opet were strong, warriors, religiously inclined and worshiped the Baal(God of Sun) and Astrate (God of Moon).

The second half of the story takes us back to ancient world of Opet. Huy is the priest, poet, commander in chief and close aide of the king Lannon. The bond between them goes back to their childhood. Huy is also known for his loyalty toward Opet and king, his service towards city and man of principles. He was in love with a priestess Tanith although such a relationship is forbidden and hence kept hidden. on the other end, Under the commanding power of Huy and Lannon, they captured many tribes and turned them to slaves

But amongst there was one who was the king of his tribe vendi, Manatassi who had disfigured leg and yet courageously fought against the king. The the war that Mantassi fought was for revenge rather than the freedom of the tribe. When he was captured, Huy saved him after seeing the deformity as sign from God causing a rift between him and the king. Over the course of time Huy had surrender Manatassi to the king to regain his friend, but Manatassi escaped with his girl. Manatassi not only lost his girl ,but was made to work in mine. On his second attempt to escape along with other 30,000 slaves led to war between him and Huy and lost his hand. Over a course 2-3 years. He gathered an army and fought the final war against Opet, he not only killed people of the city, but also the entire city

The book gives a glimpse of both modern and ancient Africa and the balance of both is perfect in the book. The characterization of people were perfect and were not overdone. The irony of the story is the relationship of Huy and Lannon and that of Louren and Ben are just the same. Thier loyalties towards each other, value for their friendship, their characters and view towards life. I would rate the book 4/5


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