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The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran: A Book Review

The Heretic Queen 
Author: Michelle Moran
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Release Date: 2008
Pages: 383
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: In ancient Egypt, a forgotten princess must overcome her family’s past and remake history.

     The winds of change are blowing through Thebes. A devastating palace fire has killed the Eighteenth Dynasty’s royal family—all with the exception of Nefertari, the niece of the reviled former queen, Nefertiti. The girl’s deceased family has been branded as heretical, and no one in Egypt will speak their names. A relic of a previous reign, Nefertari is pushed aside, an unimportant princess left to run wild in the palace. But this changes when she is taken under the wing of the Pharaoh’s aunt, then brought to the Temple of Hathor, where she is educated in a manner befitting a future queen.

     Soon Nefertari catches the eye of the Crown Prince, and despite her family’s history, they fall in love and wish to marry. Yet all of Egypt opposes this union between the rising star of a new dynasty and the fading star of an old, heretical one. While political adversity sets the country on edge, Nefertari becomes the wife of Ramesses the Great. Destined to be the most powerful Pharaoh in Egypt, he is also the man who must confront the most famous exodus in history.

     Sweeping in scope and meticulous in detail, The Heretic Queen is a novel of passion and power, heartbreak and redemption. 

     My review: Nefertari is the only surviving royal of the Eighteenth Dynasty. She is the daughter of Mutnodjmet and niece to Nefertiti. Nefertari lives with the stigma of her family’s heresy and faces the hatred of the Egyptian people. However, she is taken under the wing of the High Priestess of Hathor and is given an education fit for a queen. She soon catches the eye of Ramesses and against the opposition of the Egyptian people, they marry. Nefertari then competes not only for the position of queen and Ramesses's heart, but also the hearts of her people.

     I was captivated by the novel from the start. I felt sorry for Nefertari, not only that she has lost everyone in her family, but that everything she has heard about her family isn’t good. Nefertari works hard throughout the novel to find the truth about her family and to restore her family’s reputation. Nefertari is a strong heroine. She is not only wise, but she can also be manipulative. Her greatest feature is her smile, and she uses it to her advantage.

     I felt the plot was fast-paced, entertaining, and light-hearted. Nefertari competes with Iset for the crown and Ramesses's heart. With court drama and political intrigue, each of them tries to best the other. Yet, it is clear that Ramesses loves Nefertari, and there is a touching and sweet love story between them. There are very little references to the biblical story, and it is mostly in the background. However, these references shows Nefertari’s political acumen, and unlike Nefertiti, I saw how powerful she will be as a queen.

     Overall, this novel is about friendship and family. The Heretic Queen is a fast-paced read that is filled with court intrigue, danger, suspense, and romance. It is about one girl’s journey to self-discovery. While there are a few plot holes, my only complaint is that I wish this novel was longer. Even though the novel was 400 pages, I was reluctant to leave her world and wanted her to write more. The story is very well written with realistic characters. I found that this novel eclipsed Nefertiti and is its superior. While I recommend this novel to everyone, I feel that this novel caters to young adults. I read this novel when I was a teen, and I felt that it resonated with me more than it did as an adult. I still really enjoy this book and would always read it again. The Heretic Queen will appeal to fans of Philippa Gregory, C.W. Gortner, Margaret George and historical lovers alike. After reading this book, you will become fascinated with Ancient Egypt and want to learn more about it.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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