Nefertiti by Michelle Moran, 496 pages, 2008
Nefertiti and her younger sister, Mutnodjmet, have been raised in a powerful family that has provided wives to the rulers of Egypt for centuries. Ambitious, charismatic, and beautiful, Nefertiti is destined to marry Amunhotep, an unstable young pharaoh. It is hoped that her strong personality will temper the young ruler’s heretical desire to forsake Egypt’s ancient gods.
From the moment of her arrival in Thebes, Nefertiti is beloved by the people but fails to see that powerful priests are plotting against her husband’s rule. The only person brave enough to warn the queen is her younger sister, yet remaining loyal to Nefertiti will force Mutnodjmet into a dangerous political game; one that could cost her everything she holds dear.
"Nefertiti" is an amazing novel about one of Egypt's most legendary rulers. Nefertiti's half-sister, Mutnodjmet, is the narrator of the book, which chronicles Nefertiti's marriage to Prince Amunhotep until the time of her death. These two sisters from the same household couldn't be more different but would ultimately do anything for each other. Nefertiti is calculating and shrewd, and she plots with her father to keep her family in favor with the Pharaoh and make sure that his second wife, Kiya, stays out of the picture.
Greed, murder, betrayal, and palace intrigue abound in this spellbinding novel.
Pharaoh's heretical desire to raise a new son god, Aten, above all others soon plunges the country into chaos. He destroys centuries of religious tradition, closing the temples to all other gods and establishing Aten as supreme. Nefertiti encourages her husband's prideful foolishness, so long as it keeps her and her family in control. When the royals establish a glittering new court at Amarna, the on-going rivalry between Nefertiti and Pharaoh's second wife, Kiya grows dangerous. Nefertiti tries in vain to produce a son. With priests, ministers and the military vying to exert control over Pharaoh, the only person whom Nefertiti can consistently rely on for the truth is her sister Mutnodjmet. However, Mutnodjmet finds her loyalty often tested by Nefertiti's determination and the desires of her own heart.
I loved the way she made Egypt come alive. I felt like I could hear Nefertiti's rages, see her putting on her wigs and kohl, and smell the perfume she wore while trying to keep her husband's attention away from the harem and firmly on herself. Because the author had spoken about her research into plague in ancient Egypt, I wasn't surprised when plague broke out in the novel, claiming the lives of some of the characters and altering Egyptian history.
It was a thoroughly entertaining book and I would highly recommend it.
Rating 4 1/2 out of 5