Book 104: The Heretic QueenAuthor:
Michelle Moran, 2008Genre:
Historical Romance. Ancient Egypt.Other Details
: Hardback. 383 pages.My love is unique - no one can rival her, for she is the most beautiful woman alive. Just by passing, she has stolen away my heart.
" - Ramesses II, poem for Queen Nefertari.
Following the death of Nefertari's family in a fire, she is left to grow up in the palace of the new Pharaoh, Seti I. She is constantly over-shadowed by her family's past, especially her aunt, Queen Nefertiti. She finds herself falling in love with her childhood companion, Prince Ramesses. His aunt, Woserit, takes Nefertari under her wing to educate her and promote her as the future Chief Wife for the prince. However, Ramesses has already married Iset.
Although Iset is not a princess by birth, she is very beautiful and has the favour of Ramesses other aunt, Henttawy. There is a long history of bad blood between the two sisters and this plays out in the rivalry between Iset and Nefertari. When Ramesses declares his love for Nefertari, the way is still not clear for her being declared Chief Wife and Queen over Iset. First she must win the approval of the people of Egypt who associate her with Nefertiti, the Heretic Queen.
I enjoyed this book and it was an easy read though I had to put aside my quibbles with this particular take on Ancient Egyptian royal life.
Moran does include a number of historical incidents from the early years of Ramesses II's' reign and certainly she is not imagining that he and Nefertari were a love match as poetry and buildings remain as a testimony to this love. However, she does exercise considerable artistic license with Nefertari's ancestry. Even though a cartouche of the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh Ay was found in Nefertari's tomb, which may suggest a connection to that royal family, there is no definitive proof of this. So making her the daughter of Nefertiti's sister Mutnodjmet, the narrator of Moran's first novel, Nefertiti
, is a plot devise upon which hangs the entire issue of Nefertari having to deal with disapproval about her connection to the heresy practised by Queen Nefertiti.
I also felt that the constant concern about what the people thought about her suitability as Chief Wife was out of keeping with the society of the time. The Pharaoh and his family was considered more than royal, they were divine incarnations. The kind of worry about 'the people' felt more in keeping with the sensibilities of post-Enlightenment Europe or even today than this era. She also introduces the story of Moses petitioning for the release of his people, though in a modified form. Again, there is no evidence of this and you can't really count Cecil de Mille's The Ten Commandments
, which featured Ramesses and Nefertari, as historical fact.
In the final analysis I considered this novel more in the spirit of the epic films about Ancient Egypt that were produced in Hollywood during the 1950s such as Howard Hawk's Land of the Pharaohs
. Something to enjoy for the spectacle and romance but not take too seriously.