Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Guest Review: Nefertiti

Once again, I asked my good friend Melissa to help me out with my huge stack of books that I need to review. I knew she would appreciate NEFERTITI by Michelle Moran because she has read loads of historical fiction books. After reading her review (and many other ones,) I am just dying to read this book!

Summary: 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. -- Three Rivers Press

When Julie first gave me this book to review, I could barely contain my excitement. As an avid fan of historical fiction, NEFERTITI was high on my wish list of books to read. In fact, I was all set to order it when my very dear friend handed me a free copy. Words cannot describe how thrilled I was to be asked to read this coveted book. With that being said, I have to admit that I had really hyped this novel up in my mind, and was expecting (and hoping) to be enthralled. Well, I’m happy to report that I was not disappointed, not even a little.

The story begins in 1351 BCE, after the tragic death of Crown Prince Tuthmosis -- more than 1,000 years before the Ptolemy Dynasty and the reign of Cleopatra. Nefertiti, a beautiful young girl and daughter of a powerful vizier is sought out by her aunt (the reigning queen of Egypt) to become Chief Wife to her remaining son Amunhotep -- the future Pharaoh (who already has one wife). Nefertiti is tasked by her aunt and father to tame and moderate the new pharaoh -- an unstable, hot-headed and ambitious young man who is bent on replacing Egypt’s old Gods with new.

After Nefertiti’s marriage and the coronation of Egypt’s new Pharaoh and his queen, the family journeys to Memphis where Amunhotep decides to move the royal court and build a new city in the dessert. It is through the eyes and voice of Nefertiti’s younger sister, Mutnodjmet that Moran narrates her story, painting an exceptionally vivid picture of life in ancient Egypt, especially the tumultuous Egyptian court. As Nefertiti seeks to garner favor with Amunhotep over his first wife and instill herself as queen in the hearts of the people, her sister Mutnodjmet questions whether or not she herself is suited to a life filled with court intrigue and never-ending power struggles.

Moran does an exceptional job bringing her cast of characters to life. I found myself exasperated by the conniving and cunning Nefertiti and sympathetic to the more likable and compassionate Mutnodjmet. I had to keep reminding myself that both girls were simply that – just girls. The responsibility that was heaped upon the shoulders of these two young women, still in their teens, was staggering and for me, unfathomable. It is hard to imagine that anyone that young could begin to cope with the pressures of ruling a people. Of course, life was very different in ancient Egypt than today.

NEFERTITI is a compelling and provocative page-turner. It is a rich story filled with historical detail that is entertaining and easy to read -- think THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL. It’s hard to believe that this was Moran’s first novel. I absolutely loved this book and would recommend it to anyone. The only criticism I have is that it ended, which is why I can’t wait to read its sequel, THE HERETIC QUEEN, which will be out in September.

Thanks Melissa -- what a great review! I am so grateful that she has once again helped me by sharing her thoughts on NEFERTITI. It sounds like our book club might really enjoy this book too. If any of you are considering selecting NEFERTITI for a future book club pick, there are discussion questions available here. Ms. Moran is also available for author chats -- how awesome would that be!


Lezlie said...

Great review!

Check out my blog for a great Michelle Moran giveaway starting Sept. 1. Prizes include an autographed copy of The Heretic Queen, sequel to Nefertiti coming Sept. 16!

Books 'N Border Collies

Anonymous said...

Julie - I read this book back in June and thought it was fantastic - you really should try to read it yourself now.

Anonymous said...

Super review, Melissa! Thanks for sharing it. I can't wait to read this.

Anna said...

I just finished this book yesterday. I absolutely loved this book, and I'm not a huge fan of historical novels. I can't recommend this book enough.

--Diary of an Eccentric