The Heretic Queen, Michelle Moran
This is the first of Michelle Moran's books that I have read and after reading it, I can not wait to read her other two! It was simply amazing! So good in fact that my book club will be reading it in a few months!
**Review may contain spoilers!**
This is actually Moran's second book and tells the story of Nefertari, beloved wife of the great Pharaoh Ramesses II and niece of the infamous Nefertiti. The story covers Nefertari's life from a young orphaned princess in the court of Seti I up through her crowning as Queen of Egypt in her mid teens. We really see her struggle against the lasting legacy of her family - still considered heretics by the people of Egypt. Nefer, as she is called by Ramesses, also has to struggle to outwit and triumph over two women determined to see her destroyed - Iset, Ramesses's first wife, and Iset's "adviser" Henuttawy, Ramesses's aunt. They see her as a threat to the power that they want to hold. However, when Nefertari is taken under the wing of Ramesses's other aunt, Woserit, she is put on the path that will help her triumph. Once they are married, while it is a passionate relationship, Nefertari also proves how valuable she is to Ramesses as she is very intelligent, well versed in many languages, and does not shy away from warfare - even going into battle with him! The struggle between Nefertari and Iset and their "advisers" for the title of Chief Wife really is a battle between good and evil as there is an underlying story of palace and political intrigue throughout.
This is an absolutely fascinating and gripping story that I could not put down; it is full of mystery, lies and intrigue, love, passion, and loyalty. There are many gaps in the history of ancient Egypt but I felt Moran did a great job filling in some of them to make an excellent story. It is written in the first person POV, which can limit the story sometimes but in my opinion does not hinder the story here. The author does an absolutely wonderful job of describing not only the characters, who really come alive, but also the sights and sounds of ancient Egypt; I could close my eyes and picture what Nefertari was seeing. As to the characters, the love story between Nefertari and Ramesses is made even more wonderful because it is true and I was pulling for Nefertari's triumph from the start. I loved seeing how she grew and matured into the intelligent woman who knew how to make herself indispensable to Ramesses, ultimately helping her to win the crown. It was also touching to see how much Ramesses cared for her, never letting idle gossip or the opinions of others poison his true feelings. Every story has to have a villain and I can't think of two characters that I have ever hated more than Iset and Henuttawy; I loved every triumph Nefertari had over them.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone, especially those with an interest in ancient Egypt. Yes, I realize that there have been liberties taken but I don't think that takes away from the story at all. I can not wait to read her first novel, Nefertiti and her latest Cleopatra's Daughter. This is a wonderful book by a very talented author and I don't think you'll be disappointed.