Nefertiti by Michelle Moran

The family of the sisters Nefertiti and Mutnodjmet has always been close to the Egyptian throne. When the heir dies, Nefertiti is married off to his younger brother Amunhotep. But Amunhotep wants to build a new Egypt. He worships the sun god Aten and has wild plans to build a new capital. When he becomes pharaoh, he even changes his name to Akhenaten, as tribute to this new religion. It now falls down to Nefertiti to restrain her husband. But she faces numerous challenges. In the north the Hittites are trying to regain ground. And then there is Akhenaten’s other wife Kiya and her family who are all too eager to take over the power behind the throne. Meanwhile, Mutnodjmet tries to build a life in her sister’s shadow, but that isn’t easy.

This is my very first book about ancient Egypt. So this means I know little to nothing about Nefertiti’s life and this novel seemed like a good introduction. The book is narrated by Mutnodjmet, Nefertiti’s half-sister. ‘Mutje’ and Nefertiti are opposites and this makes for an engaging story.

Although the book is set so many centuries ago, I immediately found many similarities with, let’s say, the Tudor period. Nefertiti is trying to change the religious beliefs of her country as the second wife and struggling to produce a male heir to the throne. It immediately brings to mind Anne Boleyn. I can say little about the historical accuracy of this book. We know so little about that time. I read that we are not even sure which mummy is Nefertiti’s, or if she is yet to be discovered.

So it was up to Moran to fill in the gaps and come up with a believable story. And for me, she did just that. It’s a light book with plenty of drama. The ending was a bit quick I thought, but it was fitting. However, I don’t know if I would have enjoyed this book as much if it was about events I know well. But just because it was all new to me, I could fully empathize with the different characters. And I got to know a few Egyptian customs a lot better.

Nefertiti and Akhenaten, and by extension the entire 18th dynasty, lived during fascinating and turbulent times. I definitely want to give Moran’s other books a chance too now.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Have you read anything good about Ancient Egypt?

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