Sunday, January 24, 2010

Review of Nefertiti by Michelle Moran

Before I became an author, I reviewed books for a review website. This was before the book blog explosion. One of the novels I reviewed was the hardback edition of  Nefertiti by Michelle Moran. I really enjoyed this book, so here is my review:

As a woman from the ancient world, only Cleopatra surpasses Nefertiti in name recognition. Her bust has become one of the most easily identifiable objects from the reigns of the Pharaohs in Egypt. Michelle Moran’s Nefertiti is the story of the daughter of Vizier Ay, who became the Chief Wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten, co-regent with her husband, and as some have speculated, the successor pharaoh to Akhenaten.

Most parents of a teenager have said at least one time, “The world does not revolve around you.” However, in the case of Nefertiti and Akhenaten, it actually did. At the ages of 15 and 17, these two young people rose to the highest position in Lower Egypt (nearest the Mediterranean) and eventually ruled all of Egypt and its far-reaching empire. The phrase, “palace intrigue,” might very well have been invented in their court.

Nefertiti’s story is told through the eyes of her younger sister, Mutnodjmet, who avoids the limelight as much as her sister seeks it. Instead, she chooses to tend her garden and learn about the medicinal properties of herbs, something that will be of help to her sister during the delivery of six princesses. Mutny, a believer in the Egyptian god, Amun, watches as her brother-in-law Akhenaten turns his back on the powerful Amun in favor of a minor god, Aten, who he declares to be the one god that all will worship—or else. To honor Aten, Akhenaten abandons the traditional capital of Thebes in favor of a new city, Amarna, which rises out of the desert for the glory of Aten, Pharaoh, and Nefertiti. Everything else, including guarding Egypt’s borders, is neglected while a frenzy of building takes place. Their images are everywhere, and this obsession with their own glorification foments unrest among the people and a rebellion within Pharaoh’s army.

In Nefertiti, Miss Moran takes us behind the scenes of life in a royal palace with its beautiful clothes, exquisite adornments, exotic scents, obsequious servants, and endless procession of favor seekers who want to be noticed and rewarded by pharaoh. She successfully recreates the intrigue in which Nefertiti pulls off the marginalization of Akhenaten’s second wife, Kiya, even though she is the mother of his two sons. She portrays Nefertiti as someone who can earn the love of the people by throwing them copper coins and reassuring them that rejection of Amun and acceptance of Aten is the right course. Finally, she establishes a dialog where it is possible to believe that Nefertiti was able to achieve immortality by becoming pharaoh in her own right.

Little is known of how these two royals met their deaths. However, history records that there was plague in Amarna at approximately the time of Akhenaten’s death. There is no exact date for Nefertiti’s death, and her tomb has never been discovered. With so little hard evidence at hand, the author is able to write her own ending to their reign, and it’s a humdinger with feathers flying everywhere. My only quibble with this book is that the relationship between the conceited, overbearing Nefertiti and Mutny, the go along to get along little sister, starts to wear thin about halfway through the book. However, Miss Moran has captured the excitement of the Egyptian court at a time when Egypt was the greatest power on earth, and Nefertiti was its queen. 4.5/5 Stars


  1. lovely review. I loved this novel and her second The Heretic Queen. While reading them, I felt as if I was really there. It is definitely a book I will read again someday!

  2. Thank you. Michelle is such a nice lady, one of the few authors who acknowledged my reviews. One of these days, I'm going to have time to read Cleopatra. She has a casual style of writing that I find very appealing.

  3. I'm so glad you enjoyed the books, Muse in the Fog, and I wish I had time to do your French Historicals Challenge!

    And thank you, Mary, not only for your lovely words, but for reposting your thoughtful review! Congratulations as well on all of your success! Searching for Pemberley is a fantastic novel.

  4. This looks great. I love almost anything having to do with the ancient world, though I usually focus on the Greeks. My mother is obsessed with ancient Egypt and this book would make a wonderful gift for her, with the added benefit of letting me borrow and read it afterward. It's interesting to learn about your taste in books, outside of Austen of course.