Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
Release date: July 10th, 2007
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Genres: Historical fiction
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.
Observant and contemplative, Mutnodjmet has never shared her sister’s desire for power. She yearns for a quiet existence away from family duty and the intrigues of court. Her greatest hope is to share her life with the general who has won her heart. But as Nefertiti learns of the precariousness of her reign, she declares that her sister must remain at court and marry for political gain, not love. To achieve her independence, Mutnodjmet must defy her sister, the most powerful woman in Egypt—while also remaining loyal to the needs of her family.
Akhenaten and his chief wife Nefertiti were either visionaries or heretics, depends on who you talk to. They completely reshaped Egypt, abandoning the polytheism that had been practiced for hundreds of years and introducing worship that focused on the Aten, a sun god. They also built a new capital city from scratch out in the middle of the desert and changed the way humans were depicted in art. While the novel tells the story of these two people, it is also the story of Nefertiti’s younger sister Mutnodjmet.
Mutnodjmet is a bit of an historical mystery. Not much is actually known about her and even that is debated. But this is one of the things that I love about Michelle Moran’s books, she writes about lesser known characters from history. So, while based on historical fact, a lot of Mutnodjmet’s life as depicted in the novel is fictional. To be honest, I’m glad the story was told through Mutnodjmet’s eyes. Nefertiti was not at all a likeable character. She was beautiful but shallow, kind when she wanted something, but mostly calculating and cold. Everything was about her! On the other hand, Mutnodjmet didn’t want anything to do with the politics of the palace. A home in a small village with a garden would have suited her just fine. But instead she was forced to tend to her sister and took a lot of abuse and heartache in the process. I really liked Mutnodjmet and I especially liked her character with General Nakhtmin (*swoon*). It’s a romance that I can get behind – full of challenges but beautiful and genuine.
What I have always appreciated about Moran’s books is how well researched they are. Ancient Egypt felt so real to me. I could fully imagine the palaces, sand and the desert heat. I appreciated how Moran addressed the changes and inferences she made based on historical fact. I always like reading what has been changed and why. For me, historical fiction needs to be as realistic or plausible as possible for me to actually enjoy it. As soon as I finished the book I opened my laptop and started to look up more on Mutnodjmet and the time period. Moran hooked me right from the start and I needed to know more and more about what I had just read.
I’m always amazed by how Moran weaves such engaging historical tales. I have read the book at least a dozen times and still feel that same sense of excitement I felt the first time I read it. If you enjoy historical fiction this is definitely the book for you. Happy reading!