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)

No comments:

Post a Comment