Michelle Moran – Nefertiti
22. Nefertiti by Michelle Moran (2007)
Length: 496 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Started: 23 February 2012
Finished: 26 February 2012
Where did it come from? Bookmooch.
Why do I have it? Early on in my blogging days, I’d heard lots of good things from fellow book bloggers about Moran’s novels in general, and Nefertiti in particular.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 20 January 2009.
A bossy older
sister is way worse when she’s
the Queen of Egypt.
Summary: Mutnodjmet and her older half-sister Nefertiti have grown up close to power; their aunt is queen of Egypt, and their father is a powerful vizier. But they have plans that stretch even further, that involve marrying Nefertiti to Amunhotep IV, the co-regent and ruler of Lower Egypt. The beautiful Nefertiti has no problem turning Amunhotep’s head, but to keep her place in his heart and in his kingdom, she must bear him a son, something that proves unexpectedly difficult. Meanwhile, the increasingly unstable Amunhotep has renounced the traditional gods, and made mandatory the worship of Aten, the sun, a heresy that does not sit well with his subjects. All Mutny wants is a simple life for herself, but how can she achieve that when her family stands poised on the brink, with the slightest chance of fate tipping them towards either eternal glory, or permanent scandal and ruin?
Review: I really wanted to love this book. I loved Cleopatra’s Daughter and Madame Tussaud, and all of the good things I’d heard about Nefertiti was the reason I even picked up Moran’s books in the first place. I wanted to love it, but I sadly didn’t.
I did like it, for sure. Moran’s got a real talent for making both historical places and historical people come to life, and that talent was on full display here. I was craving ancient Egypt when I started this book, and Moran delivers on that front. I’m used to books about ancient Egypt having a supernatural component to them (probably mostly Anne Rice‘s fault, although Jo Graham certainly contributed), so it took me a while to get my footing in Moran’s vision of an Egypt where the people are concerned with the gods, but the gods aren’t reciprocally concerned with the people. But once I did, it was easy to get lost amongst the statues and obelisks and open air markets and barges on the River Nile.
The characterizations were also well-done, and not only the famous historical figures, but also the people surrounding them, were vivid and real. However, this may have ultimately worked against the novel, in terms of how much I enjoyed it. To explain: I absolutely bought the characterization of Nefertiti as vain and power-hungry and spoiled, but underneath terrified of being alone, unloved, and forgotten. She was believable, if not entirely relatable, and I understood her motivations even if I didn’t always sympathize with them. But what I didn’t understand is how everyone – notably Mutny – falls for the crap that Nefertiti is dishing out, time and again. (In her defense, Mutny does put up some resistance, but always seems to get sucked back in eventually.) Maybe I don’t get it because I don’t have a bossy older sister of my own, but I got tired of watching everyone let themselves constantly get pushed around in the name of family, and it kept me from getting too emotionally invested in the outcome.
So, in short, it’s a well-written book, and I enjoyed it, but my distaste for the main relationship dynamic kept me from loving it as much as I’d expected to. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: If you’re interested in ancient Egypt, particularly in putting some personalities and context behind the famous names and faces, Nefertiti is worth the read.
Other Reviews: Oodles of ’em, over at the Book Blog Search Engine.
First Line: If you are to believe what the viziers say, then Amunhotep killed his brother for the crown of Egypt.
Vocab: (see the whole list)
- p. 1: “A warm wind stirred the curtains of his chamber, carrying with it the desert scents of zaatar and myrrh.” – a generic name for a family of related Middle Eastern herbs that include oregano, basil thyme, thyme, and savory.
- p. 17: ““There was Hatshepsut. And our aunt doesn’t wear the pschent crown.”” – the double crown worn by ancient Egyptian kings, symbolic of dominion over Upper and Lower Egypt, which had previously been separate kingdoms.
- p. 51: “She stood, her beaded faience dress spilling to the floor as the sun caught her necklace and gilded bangles.” – glazed earthenware or pottery, especially a fine variety with highly colored designs.
- p. 235: “Moringa and pomegranate trees trimmed the wall, but most brilliant were the safflowers, yellow and cheerful in the fading light of the open court.” – the horse-radish tree, known in commerce as ben or ben nuts.
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