Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran

If you are to believe what the viziers say, then Amunhotep killed his brother for the crown of Egypt.
[opening sentence]

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
Three Rivers Press, 2007
Fiction (Historical); 466 pgs

In high school, I found my World Civilization class a bore. I was much more interested in U.S. history. I think it was more a case of too much information crammed into a short period of time that turned me off of the more general and ancient history lesson than it was the actual material itself. Adulthood has found me craving periods in history that I once cared so little about.

I first saw mention of Michelle Moran’s novel, Nefertiti, on a blog, which one exactly I cannot recall. The title alone was enough to make me curious. I knew very little about Nefertiti, however, her name is one I associate with a strong female figure in history. Onto my wish list it went. I was thrilled when the author contacted me to ask if I would be interested in reading and reviewing her book, which recently was released in paperback.

This is the story of Nefertiti, but more so the story of her younger half sister, Mutnodjmet, with the cat like eyes. It is the story of their family and their rise to power, a climb that proved difficult and harrowing in more ways than one. With the death of the favored son of the Elder Pharaoh, came the crowning of Amunhotep, a prince whose ideas and beliefs struck fear in his family and others in power. Amunhotep was a visionary, a poet and a man who was hungry for power and control. He despised the soldiers and the rule of his father. He worshiped Aten, a minor god representing the sun, and repudiated Amun, the god of his people. Amunhotep wanted to build temples at the risk of forsaking the land his forefathers had fought to gain and protect. He wanted to be loved by the people and known for eternity.

It was the hope of Amunhotep’s mother that by marrying him to the daughter of her brother, she could rein her wayward son in. Nefertiti seemed the perfect person for the job. Her strength would be a force to reckon with and her beauty would sway any prince. As Chief Wife to the Pharaoh, Nefertiti proved to be his match. Her ambition and cunning were an equal match to her husband’s own ambition as well as his passion. Nefertiti had her work cut out for her, holding on to the heart of the Pharaoh and steering him in her direction so that she could maintain her hold on him in hopes of keeping her family in a position of strength and power. The Pharaoh’s first wife had her own plans, meanwhile, and she and her father would do whatever they could to try and turn the Pharaoh’s favor in their direction.

Forever in her sister’s shadow, Mutnodjmet, was a more practical woman. She was known for her honesty and served as an anchor to Nefertiti. Mutny did not seek the crown as did her sister. She was loyal to her family; however, she also sought peace in her own life which did not always coincide with the life of royalty. Whereas Nefertiti sought power and the love of the people, Mutny desired her garden and her own family.

Do you know how some characters reach out to you from a book and grab hold of your heart? Mutny was like that for me. I instantly bonded with her. She was a wise old soul in a young woman’s body. She had a good heart and an intelligence about her that instantly attracted me to her character. I was not so keen on her sister Nefertiti, who at times came across as spoiled and selfish. Yet, Nefertiti was very intelligent and, despite her flaws, was much more than she seemed. There was also a vulnerability to Nefertiti. While she wanted the world to see her as a woman who could accomplish all on her own, she needed the strength of her family, in particular that of her sister. The bond between the two sisters was strong and despite the aggravation that Mutny felt at always having to come to her sister’s side, Mutny loved her sister and was devoted to her family, willing to do what she thought was needed to ensure their well being.

The novel’s characters are what make the story as strong as it is. They are well developed; their stories complex, intricately woven, and yet easily relatable. There were a number of characters in the novel that captured my heart: General Nakhtmin, a strong and kindhearted man who would do anything for the woman he loved; Ipu, the loyal body servant; and the dowager Queen Tiye, who at first seemed harsh but later offered much needed wisdom and earned my respect. I was fascinated by both Nefertiti and Amunhotep as individual characters and also as a couple. I would have liked a closer look inside both or their minds, to know what they were thinking and feeling at the various points in their lives. The story, however, is told from the point of view of Mutny, which is actually a smart move on the author’s part. Mutny strikes me as being a more reliable narrator, a character much easier to relate to and, therefore, the best choice for telling the family’s story.

Michelle Moran brought Egypt to life. In my mind’s eye, I could see the beauty of the Nile and the country, it’s deserts and hills, and the strength of the people. Little is known about the Eighteenth Dynasty, but the author pieces together what she can into a romantic and gripping novel. This is a story about love, loyalty, and family. Nefertiti is well worth reading.

Rating: * (Very Good)
*2nd Chunkster Challenge 2008 Selection

You can learn more about the author and this and her upcoming book, The Heretic Queen, on her website or stop by and visit her blog, History Buff.

Read what others had to say about this book:
Bookgirl's Nightstand
Not Enough Books
S. Krishna's Books
The Written World
The Written Word


  1. I've had this one in my tbr pile for a while looks like I need to get to it soon :)

  2. I, too, enjoyed this book when I read it. Another author who writes amazing books that take place in ancient Egypt is Pauline Gedge. Her book "Child of the Morning" about Queen Hatshetsut is one of my all time favorites.


  3. This sounds like something I would love. I love reading about ancient Egypt, and it's great to find an author who brought it to life so well.

  4. Ooh! This sounds like it'd be right up my alley. I'm quite the opposite of you and LOVE ancient history. U.S. History always seemed bland; only filled with wars and dates and modern wars at that.

    I'm going to have to pick myself up a copy of this book and add it to my TBR list.

  5. This book sounds like a fabulous way to rekindle my old love affair with Egypt. It's been a long time.

    I always like ancient history over US History too, Trisha.

  6. Uh oh... yet another book to add to my ever-growing TBR!

  7. Sounds great! I'll definitely add this book to my wishlist, even if I didn't win the contest hosted by Stephanie, hehe. ;)

  8. In my high school history classes, I felt the same way you did! I have always loved American history, and I'm afraid even to this day, I don't read very many books that take place in other countries. I am trying to get better! Thanks for the excellent review!

  9. I remember seeing bits and pieces of a Discovery Channel episode about her that I thought was really cool (and I usually don't watch that channel too often).

  10. "Do you know how some characters reach out to you from a book and grab hold of your heart?" YES!! I'm finding that less and less in my reading, but it is something that I hope for with every book I pick up. This sounds wonderful in so many ways--thanks for the great review!

  11. EVERYONE is reading and loving this book! On the wishlist it goes.

  12. Thank you so much for taking the time to review Nefertiti! I hope everyone who reads it enjoys it as much! And if anyone should have questions about the book/research/publishing industry, please feel to email me anytime through my website Although I'm currently touring with the Archaeological Institute of America until August, I always have time for emails ;]

  13. Great review! I was the same way, very drawn to Mutny. I felt so much for her because she wanted to live her life yet she was still there for her family.

  14. Another good review for Nefertiti! I don't know much at all about Ancient Egypt either but this does sound very interesting.

  15. Great review Wendy! I can't wait to read this book! We are planning to go to Egypt in a couple years and I want to get my hands on everything I can, fiction or non.

  16. Becky - I look forward to reading what you think of it!

    Lezlie - Thank you for the recommendation! I've added Gedge's book to my wish list.

    Nymeth - I was really drawn into this book. It was the perfect book to pass the time in the jury room.

    Trisha - It just took me until my adulthood to finally become interested in ancient history, that's all. I was never a fan of glossed over history classes. They seemed so incomplete and I'm sure that's the main reason I couldn't get into World Civ in high school.

    I still love U.S. history though. I find it fascinating to see how we got to where we are today. How little things have changed and how far we've come.

    Carrie K. - If you do give this one a try, I hope you will enjoy it!

    I like to think that I've found the best of both worlds now that I'm older--U.S. history and ancient history. I like them both.

    Katherine - Be careful or it might topple over!

    Melody - I think you would like this one, Melody. Good luck in Stephanie's contest!

    Laura - American history is so much a part of who we (those of us who are Americans, anyway) are--I think it's a good thing we are drawn to our own history. In recent years, I have been reading more about other countries and cultures and I have really enjoyed that aspect of history too. These days I want to know it all! Haha Impossible, but I'm just fascinated by so much.

    Jen - The Discovery Channel is not one I stop at very often either, I admit.

    Trish - It is becoming more rare, isn't it? Is it us or them, do you think?

    Andi - I hope you will like it when you get to it.

    Michelle - Thank you for the opportunity! I hope you are enjoying your time on the tour.

    Iliana - I'm kicking myself because I didn't link your review. I'm going to remedy that right now.

    Your point of Mutny is yet another reason I can so identify with her. Although I am not royalty and my family is in position of power, I have felt the pull between family and going my own direction many times.

    Nat - And it was such an easy book to read.

    Jaimie - How neat! I would probably be reading everything I could about Egypt too if I was going there as well. I know it's a little early to say this, but I do hope you have a great time.

  17. Great review! I am glad to hear that you liked this book so much, especially the part about characterization. I have it in my TBR pile and I think I'll be reading it soon, especially after this.

  18. Meghan - Thank you! I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.


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