The Cat of Bubastes: A Tale of Ancient Egypt by G. A. Henty
Preston Speed Publications, 1998 (originally published 1889); 339 pages
I'm continuing my reread of childhood favorites (dangerous move, that) with a Henty novel. George Alfred Henty wrote children's historical fiction in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and his books are now somewhat popular in the homeschooling community (which is why I read them as a child). Personally, I thought some books were far superior to others, and The Cat of Bubastes was one that I loved.
This is the story of Amuba, Prince of the Rebu, who is captured in war by the Egyptians and made the slave of the high priest of Osiris. The priest is a kind man, and Amuba becomes a companion to the priest's son. The first half of the book moves slowly, introducing the main characters and describing various aspects of Egyptian culture. The story picks up when the priest's son accidentally kills a cat that is intended to become the sacred cat of Bubastes. The high priest is killed, and his son and Amuba, along with the high priest's daughter and Hebrew servant must flee Egypt. They decided to return to the home of the Rebu and to try to establish Amuba as king. Crazy adventures follow, including a rather forced and out-of-place cameo by Moses, who is still living as an Egyptian prince at the time of the story.
I can see why I loved this book as a child--it has high adventure and lots of big, old-fashioned words. (I was such a nerdy child.) But as an adult, I also see some flaws. I think Henty made up the Rebu people, as I haven't been able to find any reference to them, at least not on the internet. According to Henty, the Rebu live on the west coast of the Caspian Sea, which would place them in modern-day Iran, Azerbaijan, or Russia. The book speaks of Persians, but makes it clear that the Rebu are not Persian. Did the Egyptians conquer as far northeast of their own land as the Caspian Sea? I'm not sure that they did, but I'm no expert in Egyptian history, either.
Another problem I have with the book pertains to religion. Several of the characters come to the conclusion that there is one true God, but that He can be worshipped through the Egyptian gods, because each of these gods represents an attribute of the true God. If this is the case, then why did God prohibit idol worship throughout the Old Testament?
Finally, the Moses character says that he is called "Moses" because that name was found pinned to his basket when the princess found him floating down the Nile. According to the Bible, Moses is so-named because he was drawn out of the water. Historical and biblical accuracy is important, Mr. Henty.