Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I love love love this book! If you have ever heard or read anything about Egypt, I am sure you have been fascinated. When I read this book I was hooked, and probably finished it in a day or less. Michelle Moran is the first author to write an actual novel about Nefertiti. I absolutely recommend this book and the others she has written. It is really clean, no swearing or sexual scenes. It flows well and is an easy read. It is 1351 BCE...

Nefertiti intrigued me because she was a powerful woman and very beautiful. She is the daughter of Vizier Ay and her mother, deceased, was a Nubian I believe. Ay remarried and they had Mutnodjment (Mutny) together. They grow up in Akhmim, away from Court life, and soon things change for them at ages 15 and 13. The eldest son of Pharaoh and Queen Tiye had passed away, some believe with the help of his brother Amunhotep. Servants whispered that he had killed his brother to gain the throne. The Queen, sister to Ay, comes to visit and see if Nefertiti will be a good choice for Chief Wife. With her permission, Nefertiti is to marry Amunhotep. The family goes to Thebes (Malkata) and is soon immersed in court life. Mutny helps her half-sister Nefertiti as she prepares to marry Amunhotep. Soon after the wedding, there is turmoil already.

Amunhotep is strong willed, and not like his dead brother at all. His parents are worried at his ambitions, and the sun god he worships Aten. All of Egypt has worshipped Amun for thousands of years and he is trying to change things. Nefertiti goes along with him to placate him and keep his love. For he has another wife, Kiya, who is pregnant with his first child. Soon they move court to Thebes, where the Young Pharaoh can rule Lower Egypt while his father is still alive, and ruling Upper Egypt. They set up Court, and soon things are changing swiftly. Amunhotep and Nefertiti start taking treasure from the temples of Amun, for the use of their buildings. They start to build a city and temple to their new god, Aten. If any priest denies them entry, they are killed. Instead of listening to petitioners or doing his duty, the Young Pharoah and Nefertiti concentrate on building.

Kiya gives birth to a son, Nebnefer, but is soon forgotten in the shadow of Nefertiti's beauty and ambition. Mutny, the main character of this story, is often in the background serving her sister. Vizier Ay, their father, tries to keep Young Pharoah and Nefertiti in check, but they can't stop them. Mutny finds happiness in her gardens and herbs, and soon is selling her plants to women in the Court for various ailments. They saw she had cat eyes, but was nowhere as beautiful as Nefertiti. Soon word spreads that Pharaoh is dying. In a short time Young Pharaoh Amunhotep declares himself Pharaoh, even though his father is not yet dead. When he passes, the Court moves back to Thebes in the center of things. They commission artists to draw and paint them, and a builder to start work on their city Amarna. They desire to change everything that has been done before. People now have to worship Aten, and Amunhotep changes his named to Akhenaten the Builder.

They employ all of the soldiers in their armies to help build this city, instead of using them to protect Egypt from Hittites. Vizier Ay works hard, along with his sister the Dowager Queen Tiye, to protect Egypt. Nefertiti gives birth to daughters only, 6 total. The city Amarna is hastily and cheaply built, and soon the Court moves there. During this time Mutny comes to know a general in the army, Nakhtim, and soon they meet in secret. Mutny is often forgotten in light of her sister and her power. They all work to make her happy and keep the throne secure. When Nefertiti discovers that her sister is pregnant, Pharaoh sends Nakhtim away into the front lines of battle to be killed. Mutny is poisoned and loses the child. After this happens, she moves away from the palace into a home of her own in the city. She tends her garden and stays away as much as she can.

As time passes, Mutny bears witness to the changes her sister and brother in law make. The Hittites are said to be close to the borders, but Pharaoh does nothing about it. They continue to worship Aten and build. He also races horses a lot. During this time the second wife, Kiya, loses a baby mysteriously. Mutny suspects that she was poisoned as well, and comes to fear her own family. Her relationship with Nefertiti is strained, because she feels like a handmaiden to her own sister, and believes that her husband killed her unborn child. There is a rebellion underway when the General Horemheb and Nakhtim come back with the head of a Hittite general, while Nubian slaves looked on and cheered. Since Pharoah had need of most his army to build, he had even hired outsiders to help the work go faster. He has Horemheb and the other generals imprisoned, but let Nakhtim go for Mutny. They people start to grumble more at this treatment of the army and a general they like and respect.

With her parent's permission, Mutny leaves the city with Nakhtim and they buy a house on a cliff. They live happily and quietly for a time, until she is summoned back to wait on her sister for another birth. Mutny goes back for a time, but leaves when she sees the changes. Nefertiti and Akhenaten have had their faces painted on every wall and building in the city. They changed the way art was done, and had them done in their likeness which was different. Usually Pharaoh was drawn just one way no matter how he looked. The people grumbled at the heavy taxes and the way they had changed their gods and worship. Mutny returns home for some time because she is banished by Nefertiti for questioning her. A few years pass, then she is summoned again with her husband because Nefertiti is pregnant again. She gives birth to twin girls, even though historically it is not proven she ever had twins.

They decide to hold a big celebration, a Durbar. Nefertiti often throws large parties to distract Pharaoh Akhenaten from visiting Kiya, who is pregnant again. In the time Nefertiti had 6 children, Kiya has only had one. Pharoah has invited the Hittite people to come, and Vizier Ay says they should not have done that. He does not listen, and soon after the Durbar starts, Nefertiti proclaims herself co-regent and Pharaoh. This has not been done in a long time, and the people are shocked. She wears a great crown with a serpent on it, and even her own father worries how high they have come. Their family has held the throne of Egypt for a long time, but he fears the people will not like this. Plague is soon spread throughout the city. Thousands are reported dead in a short time, and they lock themselves in the palace. The gates are closed and no one is to leave.

The plague takes some in the kitchens, and Pharaoh has the rest of the cooks killed for fear of contagion. No one is to leave their rooms, and they receive one meal a day while waiting to see if the plague is gone. Mutny is pregnant finally at this time, after much time and worry, and delivers a son early, named Baraka. Queen Tiye, the dowager queen, takes charge of the nursery and all the children but Baraka are put there. Mutny stays with her husband and baby, and his wet nurse and her son. Nefertiti stays with Pharoah, and her parents in another room. They are to draw a symbol on the door if someone dies so they know not to bring food in. Mutny advises them to put herbs in front of their door to prevent the plague, but Pharaoh orders that an offering of meat to Aten be put in front instead. He puts meat in front of his door as well as the nursery. Mutny begs him not to do that. Soon there are reports of riots in the street; the people are angry at Pharaoh and blame him for the plague. They call him the Heretic King.

Soon words comes that the children are dying. Then they hear banging on the doors and walls of people dying. Soon all the children but 2 daughters are dead along with Queen Tiye, probably because of the meat in front of the door. When enough times has passed, they leave their rooms. Not many are left, and they have a big funeral pyre to burn those that have passed. Pharaoh becomes mad when seeing his 4 daughters dead, and he rides throughout the city burning houses down and people that he thinks still secretly worship Amun. Mutny secretly wonders if the gods are angry at them, and this is their punishment. Kiya goes into labor early, and asks Mutny to raise her son for her, Tut. When Pharaoh comes back, they quarantine him in a room with food for 7 days, for fear he contracted the plague while riding about. He is dead in 6 days.

Soon people are storming the temple Aten and taking gold, and any food or wine they can find. They make haste back to Thebes, before there can be a usurping. Nefertiti reigns with her oldest and surviving daughter as co regent. She still talks to Aten priests as well as Amun priests, trying to find a peace. She restores the old temples of Amun and the people go back to their old ways. She rules for years, before being murdered with her daughter by two priests of Aten. Because of her dead husband's reign and rule, he had created believers in Aten. There could not be peace because of two different gods. Her corpse is also desecrated before being buried. The city of Amarna is wiped out and stands empty, where they had hoped it to stand for eternity where their names and faces could live with the gods forever. They believed then that if you didn't leave a great mark or your face somewhere, that the gods would not remember you. As Mutny grieves her sister's passing, her last surviving daughter and Tut take the throne together.

It is said that later when the family all passes, and Mutny is the only one left, that General Horemheb marries her and takes the throne. Some say it was forced and not a love match, because he needed her royal bloodline to take the throne. I liked this book because it was exciting, and I learned about the gods they worshipped. They were also very updated in their day- women wore makeup and perfume and jewelry and wigs, they had toilets and beautiful paintings and works. I found the relationship between Mutny and Nefertiti interesting, because the one is ambitious and powerful and beautiful and easily has children, while Mutny is not ambitious and just wants a quiet life, and has only 1 or 2 children. Historically the author is not sure if she was married to General Nakhtim first, but it makes for a nice love story. I found myself at times really liking Nefertiti, and then hating her. Mutny finds out later she did not have her child killed, but she did do other bad deeds I'm sure. She supported her husband's ambitions, because really, no one could control him. She probably did it to immortalize herself, and also to keep him in check. It is sad that she lost 4 daughters to the plague, and then her husband as well. It seems that the life of the rich or royal are not always as glamorous as it seems. (any mispellings are my fault, the names are confusing lol)

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Greatest Knight

I finished another Elizabeth Chadwick book The Greatest Knight. This book was in the late 1100's during King Henry and Eleanor of Aquitaine's rule. It is based mostly on a young knight, William Marshal. He begins at a fairly young age serving King Stephen, and starts to train in the tourneys. As he gains experience and means, he leaves his service to find more opportunities. He goes to Court and meets King Henry II and Queen Eleanor. He works with his uncle for a time, and on an outing his uncle is murdered. Through his loyalty in protecting the Queen, he gains her trust and is later ransomed by her. The King chooses him to serve his son, the Young King his heir Henry.

While he serves and protects the Young King Henry, he often finds his loyalty is divided. He is supposed to protect him while doing whatever the Young King commands him to do. There are contentions between him and his father the King, because he won't let him have the power, lands or money he wants. William is often the peacemaker between the two, trying to settle matters peaceably. They often come to blows or almost war, just so the Young Henry can get more. Some of his knights kill some of his father's knights, and things don't go well. Queen Eleanor even tries to ride away to join her son against his father, but is captured and imprisoned. She is quite popular in history as a very beautiful and powerful and cunning woman and Queen. Love was not really there anymore with King Henry, he had a mistress and didn't treat her well. She is to be imprisoned for about 16 years until he dies.

This theme is followed continuously throughout the book; father against his son, and brother against brother. I suppose that is what happens when there is more than one heir, and usually everything goes to the first male. The Young King Henry passes away after a serious stomach illness, and William then goes on a pilgrimage for him to Jerusalem. On his return, the King rewards him with lands and a ward, a young lady. He now swears fealty to his King, and defends him in battle against his sons Richard and John. When the King dies, some think of a broken heart over his children, he now serves the new King Richard. The theme also in this book is the loyalty of William, and how he tries to be as honest as possible. He is said to be a descendant of George Washington, and an architect of the Magna Carta.

William Marshal is a lifelong friend and confidante to Queen Eleanor, and through her help he marries Isabelle De Clare and has a very happy marriage. They produce children, one of who is Mahelt, she is from another post I wrote. He is one of England's greatest unsung heroes of the Middle Ages, and probably one of the greatest knights from that time. The author compares him to David Beckham lol. He is a well-known character to enthusiasts of the medieval world, because he comes from an obscure family as a fourth son, and becomes a champion of the tourney worlds, a confidant to kings, and eventually the regent of England. I liked this book because of his character; he was strong, loyal, and especially I loved that he treated women well and promoted their interests and pursuits. The book is quite long and holds a lot of information, but was quite interesting.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Lady of the Roses

I read another book by Sandra Worth, I have enjoyed her books about characters from the War of the Roses. My last post was about Richard III, and this one is about his mentor and friend John Neville. John is a Yorkist and is the brother of Warwick-Warwick is the one who helped put Edward on the throne in place of King Henri and Marguerite D'Anjou. After Edward's death, Richard reigned for a short time. This book centered on that same time period, but was about Isobel and her husband John. They met at a dance when she was just 15 years old; she was a ward of Marguerite D'Anjou and was to go to court to be wed. They shared one dance, and when Isobel discovered he supported the Yorkist side, she left.

At this time the country was in an upheaval over their monarchs. King Henri was mad, and was often locked up and isolated in his tower. His wife, Queen Marguerite, ruled in his stead along with her lovers and favorites. Their young son was often by his mother's side, learning her cruel ways. She became known as the Bitch of Anjou. King Henri was the third son (I believe), and it was believed that the Duke of Lancaster, an elder son, had more legitimacy and claim to the throne. So there was the divide of Lancaster and the Yorks. Since Isobel was a ward of Queen Marguerite, she was supposedly on the York side. While at Court, she befriended the Queen and served her for a time. John Neville came again in a peace treaty with his brother Warwick, and Isobel fell in love with him. Through much persuasion, they were able to get permission from the Queen to wed. They had to pay a hefty sum since John was on the Lancaster side, but they were married shortly after.

For pretty much the rest of their marriage, Isobel stays behind with their 5 daughters and 1 son, while John serves the King. It comes to pass that Warwick, John's brother, is able to put Edward on the throne and they hold mad King Henri in a sort of prison. Things are peaceful for a time, but then King Edward marries Elizabeth Woodville in secret. Many are upset at this match, because not only is she a commoner, but the King went against the peoples' wish to make a marriage treaty with France or Burgundy. Warwick sees that he can't control his King, and he works with his brother John for the peace of the realm. Soon dissatisfaction multiplies as King Edward follows his wife the Queen's advice over that of Warwick. He plots to overthrow Edward and put his brother Charles in his place. When that fails, because Charles turns his coat in battle and joins his brother, Warwick has to flee for a time.

Things become dire when King Edward starts taking peerages and titles from his hard-working and dutiful subjects (like John) and gives them away to his brothers or his wife's family. Warwick becomes enraged at the power Elizabeth holds, and he goes to his old enemy Marguerite of Anjou and bows to her. He hopes to make a treaty with her to put mad King Henri back on the throne. She waits too long to come to his aid, and Warwick is alone and abandoned by her and Louis of France. John is now forced to choose sides-that of the Lancasters Mad King Henri with his brother Warwick, or with the Yorks-King Edward. He chooses to stay with his King, even though he has treated him badly and unfairly. Many people at this time took treason quite seriously. If you swore to serve your King, then turned to serve another, many were beheaded for this.

Isobel is a pivotal character in this novel-she is the woman who is always there for John and loves him deeply. She takes care of their many manors and their children. Although women in this time weren't too involved in politics, it still affected them deeply as their men went to war. Her uncle also became known as the Butcher of England. He had many killed in gruesome and sad ways. Isobel had a hard time getting over this, and many people judged her for her uncle's actions. In the last big battle in this book, John decides to join his brother Warwick and fights on his side. He lets his little friend, the King's brother Richard by, as he does not want to fight him. He dies fighting with his brother, against his King. He was torn apart by the choice he had to make-they later found that he was wearing the colors of the King. He tried to be loyal to both to the end. Throughout the book he is always striving for peace, and wants justice. But sadly, the women of this time-Marguerite and Queen Elizabeth-ruled savagely and cruelly over their men.

I liked this book because I got to know more characters from this time, and also saw another side to Queen Elizabeth. She was the mother of the princes that disappeared in the tower, and were later believed to be murdered by their uncle Richard. I always felt pity for her, but this book showed me another side of her that was grasping, greedy and cruel. If anyone slighted or insulted her, she found a way to get back at them. This book had many battles, no swearing, and some very short love scenes. If you are interested in learning more about the battle the war of the roses, this is a good one. Not much is know historically about Isobel, other than that she remarried, but requested to be buried upon her death with her first husband John. We suppose that theirs was a true love match. She also braved a few attempts at disguise in attempts to save her husband.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Richard III-Fall from Grace

I read the first and last book of this series, I could not find the second

one. These books were interesting because they went opposite of the book I read by Alison Weir about the Prince in the Tower. Alison Weir believed, along with Thomas More and Shakespeare, that Richard III had killed his two nephews in the Tower in order to reign. I never knew quite what to believe, but after reading these two books about Richard and his life, I now think that he was innocent. He was the third son and was darker in appearance than his other brothers, and more quiet and scared. His life required that he grow up fast, and become a skilled fighter.

When his older brother Edward became King, he was loyal to him and served him to the best of his ability. He never loved war or to fight, he was afraid. While growing up at Court, he met Anne Neville when he was 9 and she was 7. She was the daughter of Warwick the Kingmaker. Warwick her father is the one who helped put Edward on the throne of England. Richard is soon in between a lot of tough spots. Since he loves Anne he wants to support her father Warwick, but at times this would put him against his brother King Edward. He is also constantly in between his brothers Edward and George, trying to get them to get along. George his brother is always committing treason or turning his coat, meaning he will join whichever side that is winning. Eventually he is killed for his treason. Richard is the soft one of the brothers, always desiring for peace and justice.

Upon his brother Edward's death, he is to serve as Protector until his nephews come of age. During this tumultuous time, Edward's widow Bess tries to take the throne. Richard becomes King for the people, he fills he needs to to fulfill his dead brother's wishes. He also feels it his responsibility to protect the realm from Bess and the Woodvilles. In taking the throne, he now puts his wife Anne and his son Ned at risk for plots. He never wanted the throne, but did for the peace of the realm. Through his short reign, less than two years, he passes many laws that favor justice for all people, whether they be rich or poor. He does not accept bribery in courts, or people to hold those high positions that aren't worthy of them. Although his ideas aren't popular with the people, they show what a nice King Richard was. He continually fights for the rights of the poor, and for their voices to be heard.

Henry Tudor, a bastard from Margaret Beaufort, lands in England from France to fight for the throne. Richard knows this battle will be the death of one of them, and that it must end now. These books are exciting and very detailed; you feel like you really get to know Richard from childhood to adulthood. You get to see his love for Anne and how it prevails. It opened my eyes to another side of the story that could be possible. It made me think perhaps his nephews were killed by someone else, because Richard didn't have the heart. I think it was possibly Buckingham, because he turned on Richard. Or even Henry Tudor when he gained the throne. If you are interested in the York and Plantagenet time and turmoil, these books are very interesting. I did not read the second one in the series, but I knew enough to know what happened during that time. Watch for a rather disturbing love scene in the first book; besides that it is mostly war scenes and no swearing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Heretic Queen

Michelle Moran is one of my absolute favorite authors! I discovered her last year and instantly devoured her three books about Nefertiti, Nefertari and Cleopatra. You will not be disappointed. This book is about Nefertari, the niece of Nefertiti. Whether or not this is true, we aren't sure. What we know is she was loved by Pharoah Ramasses, and became Chief Wife and Queen of Egypt. This book is full of beautiful scenery and wonderful sights. You follow Nefertari's life growing up in the Courts of Pharoah Seti as an orphan, excelling in her studies and close friendship to Ramasses and Asha. She struggles to overcome the shadow of her aunt Nefertiti and her husband Akhenaten, who were known as the heretic King and Queen.

Nefertari also battles against the chief advisor Rahotep and his evil lover Henuttaway, sister to Pharoah Seti. Woserit, the other sister, takes Nefertari under her wing and trains her. This book is exciting and full of intrigue, murder, spies, and romance. It is interesting to learn about their Gods and way of life. Read Nefertiti first if you want to get the background story.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Virgin Queen's Daughter

I read this book a year or so ago, but I had to share because I loved it. This book is about Queen Elizabeth I, if she had had a daughter. The author chose to write about a girl instead of boy, because it would be interesting to see how alike they would have been. Oftentimes when a woman gave birth out of wedlock or from an affair, a midwife would be instructed to deliver and sometimes smother the baby if it needed to be kept secret.

This book supposes that Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter, and that she was not successfully smothered. The midwife took her and saved her, and gave her to her mistress because she had not had children of her own. They kept her birth a secret until Elinor was later to serve at Elizabeth's court. Her father had greatly encouraged Elinor's learning, so she was well read and very knowledgeable. When he passed away, Elinor desired to go to Court despite her mother's wishes. There the pieces of the puzzle start to add up. Many comment on her red hair since it was quite rare, and her smarts. The Queen even treated her suspiciously and watched her closely. Her nurse Hepzibah, the one who delivered her and kept it a secret, had kept a piece of fabric from the bed curtains. No sooner had she given it to Elinor than she was found and killed by the Queen's men. Elinor's mother is powerless to help her.

This book is exciting as it follows Elinor through the intrigues of Court, a marriage, and imprisonment in the tower. You won't be disappointed, this book is very exciting. It is interesting not only to think of the possibilities that Elizabeth had a child, but also to learn more about her. Elizabeth is a complex character herself; suspicious of men because her father King Henry VIII killed her mother Anne Boleyn. She never marries or has children herself. Read more if you want to find out what happens to Elinor....

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Falcons of Montabard

I seem to be on a Elizabeth Chadwick streak, for here is another one of her books. This one follows three main characters: Strongfist, Annais (his daughter), and Sabin. This book is set in the time of life in the Middle East during the twelth century. It is during the time of the Crusades, and although Strongfist and Annais are fictitious characters, it is based on a tumultuous and true time. King Baldwin of Jerusalem is captured while out hunting and is imprisoned at Kharpurt, along with Joscelin of Edessa. In this book the men are continually fighting the Saracens and trying to save their King.

Annais is a character to like, as she is strong, feminine while taking charge of hard situations. She works along with Queen Morphia to obtain the release of her husband and son. Annais is part of the hostages at one point, along with Sabin her husband and their 2 children. Parts of the book are slow moving, but the battles are also interesting and exciting. Sometimes graphic, be careful as you read the battles. This author also loves her love scenes, so there are many interspersed throughout the book. If you can tell one is coming, just skip a few paragraphs or a page. Although I like her books for the most part, I think I will dive into something else new.