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 by all that her strong personality will temper the young Amunhotep’s heretical desire to forsake Egypt’s ancient gods, overthrow the priests of Amun, and introduce a new sun god for all to worship.
From the moment of her arrival in Thebes, Nefertiti is beloved by the people. Her charisma is matched only by her husband’s perceived generosity: Amunhotep showers his subjects with lofty promises. The love of the commoners will not be enough, however, if the royal couple is not able to conceive an heir, and as Nefertiti turns her attention to producing a son, she fails to see that the powerful priests, along with the military, are plotting against her husband’s rule. The only person wise enough to recognize the shift in political winds—and brave enough to tell the queen—is her younger sister, Mutnodjmet. –Goodreads
Michelle Moran is hands down my new favorite historical fiction author. In fact, add her to my favorite authors list, period.
Nefertiti is based in ancient Egypt and follows the reign of Pharaoh Nefertiti through the eyes her sister, Mutnodjmet. Nefertiti and Mutnodjmet are polar opposites—Nefertiti is beautiful, cunning, selfish, and the center of attention. Mutnodjmet is patient, introverted, and content to work in the quiet of her herb garden.
When Nefertiti is chosen to be the Queen of Egypt and Chief Wife of King Amunhotep, a young mentally unstable pharaoh, their family’s world is taken over with political games and deceit. Mutnodjmet has no thirst for power—she simply wants to marry the man she loves and settle down. Nefertiti, on the other hand, has other plans for her sister—she wants her to live in the palace with her…and love only her (in a non-creepy way).
The character development was fantastic. I truly felt for Mutny, who was stuck in a vortex of political back-and-forth and manipulation. Nefertiti is painted as a glorious ruler, but in reality, she is greedy and selfish. She doesn’t care if Mutny is happy—she cares only for herself. There was a good balance of Mutny giving in to her sister’s demands and of sticking up for herself. I love strong female main characters, and Mutny was strong in a different way. She wasn’t out to save Egypt—she wanted to save her family and create a peaceful life for herself.
The book was rather slow in the timeline sense, as it spans over the period of about 12 years. There were times where it wasn’t terribly apparent that much time had passed, but I believe this is because I was on my Kindle and couldn’t keep track of what year it was in each chapter. My only other complaint is when Mutny discovers she is pregnant for the first time—I literally had no idea she had even had sex. The brief few paragraphs detailing the time spent with her lover (I won’t reveal who it is—it’s not really a spoiler, but it’s a nice surprise) insinuate that they hang out, but nothing hints at actual babymakin’.
As far as the historical accuracy of the story, I’m honestly not sure. I’m not a huge expert in terms of Egyptian history—I really avoided it in school because photos of unwrapped mummies scared the hell out of me. Silly? Totally. But I did feel that the small details (and large ones) really painted a vivid picture of ancient Egypt for me. The only confusing parts were the incredibly long names, but hey, those were taken from a historical record and I can’t fault the author for that. (But seriously: Ankhesenamun is a very long name for a baby….”Ankhe….ahhh, whateveryournameis, get over here!”)
When looking at other review on Goodreads, it’s pretty apparent that people either love or hate this book. I’m firmly in the first camp, as I couldn’t put it down. I look forward to picking up another Moran book soon! 5/5 on Goodreads.