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Egyptology is my speciality; in particular, the Amarnan period is my speciality. So I was naturally attracted to any book that focused on one of the most enigmatic figures of the period, the beautiful queen Nefertiti.
The story is told through the eyes of Nefertiti's loyal younger sister, Mutnodjmet. She recounts Nefertiti's marriage to the young pharaoh Amenhotep IV, later Akhenaten, and how Nefertiti completely entrances him. From there, we get the entire story of the Amarnan period, both the political developments of the country, and personal developments of its central family. We see the abandonment of the old Egyptian gods in favour of Aten, and the shifting of the Egyptian capital to an entirely new city. We see the steady growth of Nefertiti's family, but crucially her failure to provide a male heir, and her rivalry with one of Akhenaten's lesser wives, Kiya. At the centre of the story, however, is Mutnodjmet, and her desire to live a simple life away from the scheming of the royal court, and the demands of her sister. This will not be easy for her however, given she has fallen in love with one of Akhenaten's enemies and rivals...
I really enjoyed this book. Nefertiti is a flawed central character, certainly, and her spoilt nature and tempet tantrums make her immensely dislikeable at times. What keeps her appealing though, is Mutnodjmet's obvious love and regard for her sister, although as a reader, you do give a cheer when she finally stands up to Nefertiti! Akhenaten's steady descent into madness is realistically portrayed, and gives the book its drama; how will Egypt survive when its ruler is so obviously incapable? The world of ancient Egypt is lovingly brought to life, from the ordinary markets of Thebes to the temples and palaces of Amarna, and gives the book a real sense of place. It may not be the most historically accurate read available, but given that evidence for this period is slim and contradictory, that is forgivable. Overall, a fantastic read that vividly brings to life the Egyptian court, and all the problems encountered by a woman trying to gain power there.
At the young age of fifteen, Nefertiti marries Akhenaten, Prince of Egypt, and becomes his Chief Wife along with her dreams coming true as she rises to fame and fortune. Well known for her beauty, her body servants decorate her each day enhancing her natural beauty to make her mesmerizing as she fights for her husband's attention to draw him away from Second Wife and rival, Kiya, who is already pregnant. She soon however, becomes the people's Queen and works closely with her husband, becoming his closest confidant as they set out their plans for Egypt's future. Akhenaten however decides to break a thousands years of Egyptian tradition, making dramatic changes in religion and ignoring threats from other countries pushed forward to him by the military. It takes all of Nefertiti's wiles to keep the nation from being torn apart, whilst she also tries to provide Egypt with a future heir and prince. Told through the eyes of her sister, Mutnodjmet, Nefertiti's story is brought to life in this story of power, ambition, love and loss.
Ever since being taught about Ancient Egypt in primary school, I have long held a fascination into this ancient world. I have read books, watched countless TV programmes and dreamt of going to visit ancient tombs and temples in Egypt. I'm also a fan of historical fiction and so it's no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I came across Michelle Moran after reading a recommendation for her books on a forum, and I managed to get this book from Amazon. I have countless amounts of books however so this was forgotten about until recently when I was choosing something to take with me on holiday. From the moment I started reading it, I couldn't put it down and I finished the book within 2 days.
Moran does an excellent job of bringing the mysterious world of Ancient Egypt to life as how she imagined it would be, and whilst many of the main events actually happened, a lot of things are uncertain and she tried to imagine what actually happened. Of course we can never truly know the real personalities of the people mentioned in this story, but again she has tried to use as many facts as possible when basing their characters. The story is told through the eyes of Mutnodjmet, who was Nefertiti's sister. Nefertiti and Akhenaten were well known for attempting to channge the religion of Egypt, who worshipped many gods, and by solely worshipping Aten, the Sun. In the story Moran puts across how against this Mutnodjmet is, and this is based on the image found of her in Amarna where she is seen standing along, her arms at her sides, while everyone else embraces Aten. Art was significant in Ancient Egypt and so Moran sees this as a significant image, and is a basis for the character of Mutnodjmet in the book.
The story starts from before Nefertiti marries Akhenaten, and is concerned about winning his affections and drawing him away from the embrace of Kiya, Second Wife. From the moment Akhenaten sees Nefertiti he can't take his eyes off her, and she quickly builds a close relationship with her husband, closer than any other Chief Wife in Ancient Egypt has ever had, even sharing his bed chamber. The story passes through Thebes to the great capital city which the royal couple built together, their images plastered all over the city along with the images of Aten. Nefertiti has to stop the nation from being torn apart, as building a new capital and breaking a thousand years of tradition is not too popular with the people, however the people love her and are quite happy to go along with the royal couple, but will this last?
The story is a thrilling read and it's easy to get lost in the life of Ancient Egypt. If you are a fan of historical fiction then I can't recommend this book enough, especially if like me you have an interest in this period of time. Moran draws a new light onto the story of Nefertiti, and whilst we can never know of her real personality, the one shown here fits very well. Michelle Moran has also written other books set in Ancient Egypt and I am looking forward to reading the others.