Wilbur Smith was a South African-British novelist. He was born in Zambia in 1933. Smith specialized in historical fiction, writing about the international involvement in South Africa.

He began his career as an accountant. However, after the astounding success of his first published novel, When the Lion Feeds, he decided to pursue writing as a full-time career.

Smith authored forty-nine books during his lifetime. These were mainly part of his three series: The Courtney series, The Ballantyne series, and The Ancient Egypt series. All of these were bestsellers.

After 2012, he started collaborating with other authors for some of his select works. He published his autobiography, On Leopard Rock, in 2018. Smith breathed his last in November 2021 in Cape Town.

Imogen Robertson is a British director, poet and novelist. Most of her works are detective novels based in the eighteenth century, featuring Mrs. Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther. Robertson lives in London.


Wilbur Smith has brought the Courtney and Ballantyne families together in King of Kings.

Newly engaged Penrod Ballantyne and Amber Benbrook were in Cairo enjoying their time together after Amber’s return from England. Ryder Courtney and his wife Saffron Courtney, nΓ©e Benbrook were also in Cairo to gather supplies and men for their new mining venture in Ethiopia.

A jealous ex-lover of Penrod creates havoc, causing Amber to break off her engagement. Amber leaves Penrod heartbroken in Cairo and embarks on a journey to Ethiopia with Saffron and Ryder. After facing many life-threatening adventures, they establish a mining operation in Ethiopia. However, political instability and impending war leads to tension.

An excerpt about Penrod from King of Kings by Wilbur Smith and Imogen Robertson

Meanwhile, in Cairo, Penrod suffers one loss after another. His arrogance and anger are in part to blame for his grief. He successfully avenges the death of one such person, who he had wronged. Eventually, an encounter with a Sufi doctor changes him, and he lets go of his arrogance, anger, and self-centered attitude.

It becomes clear that the fate of all the characters is intertwined, as they reunite under exceptional circumstances, which need them to fight to protect their loved ones.


Wilbur Smith and Imogen Robertson have created an epic story involving the four protagonists – Amber, Saffron, Ryder, and Penrod. Each one of them is ably supported by masterful characterization and a solid backstory.

The book is loaded with romance, action, suspense and drama. While the plot is set in the nineteenth century, the female leads are self-sufficient, brave, and financially independent.

King of Kings is an out-and-out page-turner. The authors left a trail of breadcrumbs for the readers to figure out the supervillain’s identity, but nothing is revealed to the very end.


Those who haven’t read the other novels in the Courtney and Ballantyne series might find some references to the past adventures of Ryder Courtney and Penrod Ballantyne confusing. That being said, the author has made a commendable effort to provide contextual information whenever these references crop up.


The servants all knew Miss Benbrook – an English girl who looked like a flower grown from the first rains, who could also speak a fluent, classical Arabic that made them feel as if they were all poets, was not quickly forgotten.

I gave her your message, effendi.Β She died with your words in her ear and her heart.

Then one morning Hagos was gone when Amber woke and she knew it was for good. She moved back into the camp with Saffron and Ryder that afternoon.


Ameya Score:

It goes without saying that King of Kings is a must-read for all historical fiction fans. However, if you are someone who likes reading about exquisite locations, then this is one book you cannot afford to miss, for the book is replete with some stunning descriptions of Egypt and Ethiopia.

…now that you’re here

Ameya runs on a purely non-profit basis. With no tangible products on offer, advertisements and donations are our only two sources of keeping this blog up and running. You could convey your support to us with something as little as $5 - that's less than what a Starbucks would cost!