Nefertiti by Michelle Moran

I have discovered something: Archaeologists make really excellent novelists.

Michelle Moran worked in Egypt for several years, inspiring her to write a total of three books about Queen Nefertiti and her family. This book, a stand-alone novel, is told from the perspective of Nefertiti’s younger sister, Mutnodjmet, or Mutny, as her family calls her. It begins when Mutny is barely a teenager, and her sister is only fourteen. Their aunt, Queen Tiye, chooses Nefertiti to be the Chief Wife of her son, Amunhotep IV, after his older brother dies (under mysterious circumstances). The hope is that Nefertiti’s strong personality will reign in the impulsive young heir, and prevent him from doing harm to the Egyptian empire once he becomes Pharaoh. By placing the ambitious Nefertiti on the throne, she sets into motion the destiny of a family that will forever mark Egyptian history.

This book starts off really slow. I won’t tell you how long it took me to read the first portion of the book. Covering a total of about twenty years, the girls early days in the palace are entertaining, but not gripping. Gossip and petty backstabbing get covered up as political intrigue and jealous grabs for power as Nefertiti fights for her place as Amunhotep’s favorite against his first wife, Kiya. As Amunhotep takes power, however, and begins to acheive his own goal–first by renaming himself Akhenaten, after the sun disk, Aten, and destroying all of the old temples of Egypt, taxing them into ruin to build a new city in the middle of the desert, Amarna, Mutny and Nefertiti and those around them must walk on egg shells to avoid angering him, meanwhile making secretive moves in the shadows in an attempt to keep enemy nations from invading, to placate angry coutiers and civilians who do not like the sweeping changes being made.

The final third of the book, however, tumbles out in excitement: Mutny’s lover, General Nakhtmin, is sent to the Hittite front, a sure death sentence. Suspecting treachery on her sister’s part, Mutny leaves the palace, swearing never to return. Unrest grows throughout Egypt and her territories, and it all comes to a tipping point when Akhenaten, believing in a treaty with the Hittite king, invites their nobility right into the heart of Amarna. As the death toll rises, Nefertiti and Mutny must make difficult decisions in the hope of not only saving their own lives, but those of their families and their people.

This book gives a great insight into the customs and lives of people 3500 years ago. It has an engaging story, and once the ball starts rolling it doesn’t stop.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 skeins