(Cover picture courtesy of Michelle Moran’s website.)
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 that her strong personality will temper the younger ruler’s heretical desire to forsake Egypt’s ancient gods.
From the moment of her arrival in Thebes, Nefertiti is beloved by the people, but she fails to see that powerful forces are plotting against her husband’s reign. The only person brave enough to warn the queen is her younger sister, yet remaining loyal to Nefertiti will force Mutnodjmet into a dangerous political game—one that could cost her everything she holds dear.
To put it bluntly, Nefertiti was disappointing.
I honestly don’t know what I was expecting, but I was hoping to at least have the story told from Nefertiti’s own point of view, not her half-sister’s. Mutnodjmet to me at least, had no backbone and remained woefully naïve about the political machinations of the court throughout most of the novel. When a conspiracy was uncovered, it was either her servant, mother, father or Queen Tiye who revealed it to her. She was not a very proactive narrator, instead reacting to events as they came her way.
Mutnodjmet was incredibly reluctant to be part of the royal family, which I can understand, but she still allowed herself to be pushed around. It was rather frustrating that she was so innocent that she had never told a lie (since she understood the laws of Ma’at) until she was thirteen. Nefertiti, who was supposed to be the subject of the novel, came off as shallow, petty, vain and…a bitch. There was really not one sympathetic bone in her body and although I loathe swearing, there is really no other word that can describe her. And maybe, you know, Nefertiti was like that in real life and was just as power-hungry as her husband, Akhenaten. However, she must have had at least some redeeming qualities, right?
The plot of Nefertiti is relatively slow-paced, but when you’re a regular reader of historical fiction, that’s usually not an issue. Michelle Moran stuck mostly to the facts, even though not as closely as she did in Cleopatra’s Daughter, and did include a historical note explaining why she changed things where she did. Perhaps it was just me who didn’t like the characters because I do tend to lean toward strong, rather cynical types. Or, perhaps, I will have to do what I’ve been threatening to do for a year now and write a novel from Nefertiti’s point of view.
Now that is most definitely wishful thinking.
I give this book 3/5 stars.