Was I completely disappointed in the last time period based book I read? Yup. Did I get drawn in to read another one? Yup. I am a real sucker for Egypt. How could I resist a book based around the chief queen of the heretic pharaoh Ankenaten? Her famous bust sits in a museum in Berlin, taunting me to come to see it. If I have a love for all things ancient Egyptian, then rule of Ankenaten is my obsession. I had to see how this author could bring both the splendor and atrocities of that period to life.
I’ll start with the fact that if you have no knowledge of ancient Egypt, then this book would be a little difficult to follow. Moran often names other pharaohs such as Hatshepsut as well as various gods of Egypt and cities. You could vaguely follow the story but if you don’t fully grasp the importance of Thebes or the priests of Amun, I don’t think that the story would make nearly as big of an impact.
This is one of those stories I was up until two AM reading with a cup of tea growing cold beside me. It completely drew me in. The characters had such life! When Queen Nefertiti began acting like a spoiled little child you wanted to put her in her place. When the pharaoh abandoned his country’s boarders to make the soldiers build him a new city you wanted to throw him to the Nile crocodiles. Each of these moments to reached out and drew me in for the ride.
Throughout the book you follow Nefertiti’s younger sister Mutnodjmet. She gets brushed aside and treated as a servant when her sister comes to power. While the rest of us most likely would have put our overbearing, childish sister in her place, Mutny (her nick-name which makes me think of a kicked dog) follows along like (shall I say it?) a wounded puppy. She is quiet and soft and likes gardening and children. To each their own.
We watch as the new capitol city of Amarna is built to honor the Aten instead of the traditional Amun. We are there as Nefertiti is made co-regent of Egypt. Then the author makes us hurt for the hundreds that die as the Black Plague washes through the city taking with it several member of the royal family. I must say that I also let out a sigh of relief when the heretic Ankenaten passes away of the same plague he brought upon his people. He was written as a selfish, thoughtless, arrogant man and it was almost worth letting out a cheer when he passes. Almost.
As a whole, this book was beautifully written. It is rich in detail, the characters have plenty of personality, and there are very few dull moments. It’s only downfall is it is not entirely suitable for people with no knowledge of the history of Egypt. I think it would be difficult for them to follow along through many of the discussions. Imagine walking up to someone who has studied the history of China all their lives and striking up a discussion of Egypt, They probably wouldn’t know Hatshepsut from Khufu. This leaves the book with a diminished audience. Be that as it may, I adore it and will be looking for more works by this author.