Michelle Moran – The Heretic Queen
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Started: 26 March 2012
Finished: 30 March 2012
Where did it come from? Library booksale.
Why do I have it? I’ve enjoyed Moran’s other books.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 04 June 2011.
family is gone, but they still
can embarrass her.
Summary: Nefertari is a princess of Egypt, but her family all died when she was young, and she’s grown up in the court of Pharoah Seti ever since. Although she’s friends with the young prince Ramesses, her presence is only tolerated by everyone else: her aunt was the Queen Nefertiti, wife of the Heretic King, who only a generation before turned his back on Egypt’s gods, and brought down plague and suffering upon the people. As Nefertari grows up, her place in court becomes even less secure, as she becomes a player in the power struggles of Ramesses’s two aunts, both head priestesses of powerful temples. The only path that leads to success is for Nefertari to marry Ramesses and become first wife and Queen, but will the people ever accept her, knowing that the blood of heretics runs in her veins?
Review: All of the things that I knew Michelle Moran was good at – creating believable, sympathetic characters; bringing historical time periods and locations to life; writing clear, accessible prose – is all very much on display in The Heretic Queen. I can easily see why it’s some people’s favorite book of hers, and although I’d personally put Madame Tussaud in the top spot, I definitely enjoyed this one. There were a few elements that kept me from totally loving it, however.
My primary issues with The Heretic Queen may have been one of timing; specifically, that I read it too close in time to Nefertiti. I thought I’d given it enough space between the two, but the maneuvering for the position of first wife and the race to produce an heir that make up the bulk of the plot of The Heretic Queen felt pretty repetitive, since it was a major part of Nefertiti as well. It wasn’t uninteresting, but it had a definite sense of something that had been done before, and Iset (Ramesses’s other wife) wasn’t a strong enough character to make a super-compelling opponent for our protagonist. I also thought in the early chapters that Moran was setting up a subplot involving Nefertari’s childhood friend Asha, possibly a love triangle, and so was disappointed when nothing of the sort materialized; I thought that was a wasted opportunity.
(I also spent a fair bit of this book trying to mentally reconcile Moran’s Ramesses with Anne Rice’s Ramses the Damned, and giggling at the results.)
In short, although this book wasn’t a barn-burner for me, it definitely taught me some history I didn’t know, wrapped it in an entertaining story, and was overall a solidly enjoyable read. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Although it’s technically a sequel to Nefertiti, it could stand on its own just fine. Recommended for anyone interested in losing themselves in Ancient Egypt for an evening or two.
Paser said firmly, “you cannot help who your family was.”
“Then why am I cursed to live in their shadow?” I asked.
“Because they were giants,” Woserit said, “and their shadows loom large. But you are creating another path for yourself.” –p. 195
Other Reviews: There are a gazillion reviews out there, so I’m just going to link to the results from the Book Blogs Search Engine.
First Line: I am sure that if I sat in a quiet place, away from the palace and the bustle of the court, I could remember scenes from my childhood much earlier than six years old.
Vocab: (see the whole list)
- p. 6: “There would be no more studying with him in the edduba, or hunting together in the afternoons.” – special Sumerian schools where scribes studied cuneiform.
- Location 6302: “And although the invention that Penre discovers in Meryra’s tomb seems unlikely, it is the first recorded instance of a shaduf anywhere in Egypt.” – a device used in Egypt and other Eastern countries for raising water, especially for irrigation, consisting of a long suspended rod with a bucket at one end and a weight at the other.
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