Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Heretic Queen - Michelle Moran

The Heretic Queen
Michelle Moran
Three Rivers Press
Copyright Date: 2009

The jacket description:
The winds of change are blowing through Thebes. A devastating palace fire has killed the Eighteenth Dynasty’s royal family–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. 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.

The Heretic Queen is the sequel to Michelle Moran's novel Nefertiti. The story focuses on Nefertari, the niece of Nefertiti, and the last surviving member of her family. This may be a sequel, but I think you could easily read it without having read the first book, and not miss much of anything. Having read Nefertiti will just make the background/history that much clearer.

Michelle Moran takes the reader on a journey into ancient Egypt that involves all the senses. The whole book is written from the point of view of Nefertari, so we see everything she does. All five of the senses are involved, from sight to hearing, taste and smell. It gives the book that much more depth.

There's a sense of the history of Egypt that just flows from the pages of this book and permeates the story, with elements that are familiar to us, but have been given a new and different spin for the story. Michelle Moran is clearly familiar with the period, and her love of history is clear in the way she's written her novels so far. Everything seems to fit together in such a way that it's not at all jarring to the reader.

I found that I got into the flow of the story a bit faster than I did with Nefertiti and it kept me up late at night just so I'd know how things turned out. I think The Heretic Queen moves a bit faster. It almost seemed to be a shorter book than the previous one. Or perhaps it was just that I'm now a bit more familiar with Moran's style. Either way, I loved it.

Nefertari is a very engaging character, and one with whom I'm not especially familiar with as a historical character. To be honest, although I'd read a bit about Ramesses the Great, I'd never even heard of her before. As a result, I have no knowledge of any historical controversies and character traits to influence me in my reading of the fictional version of her character.

Overall, I loved this book, and I recommend it to any reader who likes stories set in ancient Egypt, or even to anyone who likes historical fiction in general. If I gave books a rating, I'd give The Heretic Queen five stars! I know I'm going to love Moran's next book, Cleopatra's Daughter just as much when I get a copy.


Lisa said...

I had wondered about whether or not I needed to read "Nefertiti" first. Good to know I can go straight to this one.

Unknown said...

I'm fairly certain it's easily doable as there's no character overlap, and even a generation gap between the sets of characters. Still, the story of Nefertiti is a part of the history in The Heretic Queen.

Either way, I hope you enjoy the read.


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