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Nefertiti by Michelle Moran: A Book Review

Nefertiti
Author: Michelle Moran
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Release Date: 2007
Pages: 463
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: 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. 

     Love, betrayal, political unrest, plague, and religious conflict—Nefertiti--brings ancient Egypt to life in vivid detail. Fast-paced and historically accurate, it is the dramatic story of two unforgettable women living through a remarkable period in history.

     My review:  The story is told from Nefertiti’s younger sister Mutnodjmet as she chronicles Nefertiti's life as queen to Akhenaten. Nefertiti struggles as she tries to produce an heir to the throne, but things gets complicated when her husband decides to give up Egypt’s gods for his one true god, Aten. Nefertiti firmly stands beside her husband while the Egyptians are criticizing the Pharaoh calling him a heretic. Mutnodjmet is the observer of the royal family. She is against them defying Egypt’s gods, and is still faithful to the old religion. She wants no power but to live a simple happy life. Yet, Nefertiti sees Mutnodjmet as a political pawn to the royal family, and wants to use her for her own ambitions. Mutnodjmet must walk a fine line by keeping loyal to her family, but also maintaining a firm independence if she wants to marry the man she loves and achieve her happiness.

     Mutnodjmet is a strong character. She has no wish for politics, and wants to lead a simple life. She is also virtuous and wise. Her sister Nefertiti is a completely different character. I really didn’t like her character. She came across as a spoiled brat. Whenever something bad happened to her, she ran crying to Mutnodjmet about her problems. She is very selfish and keeps her sister by her for her own pleasure. I also did not like Akhenaten. I found him to be a tyrant. He cared only about power and wealth and not about his people. Because of this, I could not understand Nefertiti and her husband. Nefertiti is the title character, yet she came across as immature and a whiner. If she was supposed to be strong, manipulative, powerful, with political acumen, I did not see it.

     However, I loved Michelle’s writing. I loved her descriptions of Egypt for it made Egypt come alive. I love how her book depicts how the people of Egypt felt about having to leave their religion that they had always known to follow a new unknown one under the command of the pharaoh. The people didn’t like it, and later they called them heretics. Even though it was so long ago, it still felt reminiscent today.

     Overall, this book is about love, family, and independence. The message of the book is that you have to make tough decisions (and risk your sister’s disapproval) in order to be yourself. While the characters are one-dimensional and the plot is slow, the setting and the writing will make up for it. This book will stay with you even after you read the last page, and you will be dying to get your hands on the sequel, The Heretic Queen. I recommend this story to anyone interested in Egypt, royalty, and stories about sisters.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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