Monday, February 23, 2009

The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran

Having named Nefertiti my favorite book of 2008 (read my review here), I'll admit I had high expectations for the sequel, The Heretic Queen. I wasn't disappointed. In fact, Michelle Moran went far beyond my expectations with this latest offering, and I know it'll be a top contender for my favorite of the books read in 2009.

Moran's take on the story of Queen Nefertari--wife of Pharaoh Ramesses II, daughter of Queen Mutnodjmet and General Nakhtmin, and niece of the heretic Queen Nefertiti--is captivating from the very beginning. After her mother dies in childbirth, Nefertari is a young princess without a family or a real place in the palace of Malkata, the rest of her relatives dead in a fire and Nefertiti long dead at the hands of the priests of Aten. Nefertari and Ramesses have been close friends since childhood, but her status is in jeopardy when he is crowned coregent and is set to rule alongside his father, Pharaoh Seti.

Though a princess, Nefertari is despised by most of the people in the palace and the people of Egypt because of her familial connections to the heretics Nefertiti and Akhenaten, who replaced Egypt's polytheistic religion with a single god, Aten. She also resembles Nefertiti in her looks. General Horemheb erased her family history (aside from a few images of her mother) when he forced Mutnodjmet to marry him after the fire and became pharaoh.

When Ramesses marries a harem girl, Isetnofret, Nefertari is devastated, but his aunt, Woserit, the high priestess of Hathor, befriends Nefertari and grooms her to become Ramesses' chief wife. Nefertari will have nothing unless she becomes chief wife, but with Henuttawy, the priestess of Isis and Woserit's sister, and Rahotep, the high priest of Amun, out to get her, there are few people she can trust. Moran chronicles Nefertari's fight to become chief wife, her struggle to overcome her family's past, earn the love and respect of the people of Egypt, and rise above the tensions in the palace. Moran is an expert at making historical figures come to life. Nefertari's intelligence, determination, and good heart immediately elicited my compassion for her plight. The book was full of other strong, well-rounded characters that grabbed and held my attention, including Woserit.

Though I burned through the pages to learn how the story plays out, The Heretic Queen is one book that should be savored. Moran includes a lot of detail about Egyptian culture and the politics of the time, and she gives you just enough; she never wastes a word, and not once does the story slow down. Although the ending of the book is more than sufficient, I finished it wishing there was more to the story, sad that my time in the palace was over. Moran does such a wonderful job with her descriptions of Egypt and the palace, as well as the characters' dialogue, that I felt like I was in the scene. When I think about books I wish I'd written myself (if I had that kind of writing talent), you can bet Moran's novels make the list.

**Tomorrow at Diary of an Eccentric, Michelle Moran will stop by to talk about her favorite writing space. Also, learn how you can get your hands on a copy of The Heretic Queen!**

The Heretic Queen also was reviewed by:

A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore...
S. Krishna's Books
Devourer of Books
The Eclectic Reader
Book Addiction

If you've also reviewed it, let me know in the comments, and I'll add your link!

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of The Heretic Queen from the author for review purposes.


bermudaonion said...

I have both of Michelle Moran's books and look forward to reading them.

Serena said...

I wonder if she has plans to write more about this time period?

Unknown said...

I really want to read both of Michelle's books. I'm really getting into historical fiction lately and from the reviews I've seen, Michelle is one of the best in the genre.

Jeanne said...

I think you've talked me into reading this one, too. It sounds great.

The Bookworm said...

glad to hear you liked it so much! I have this author in my TBR, I've heard many good things.
great review :)

Jo-Jo said...

I haven't read either of these books yet but they are definitely on my list! I'll have to stop back tomorrow to see what she has to say.

Alyce said...

I felt like I read them too fast also. There was so much to savor, yet I wanted to know what happened, so I rushed on. I'll have to re-read both books someday just for fun.

Jeannie said...

Thanks for the review, Anna. I have a question: Is this purely fiction or are there historical accuracies in it as well?

P.S. Miss ya!

Ladytink_534 said...

I read Nefertiti but I haven't gotten around to The Heretic Queen... and it's the one I own! She's such a good writer :)

Teddy Rose said...

I am really looking forward to reading this! Thanks for the wonderful review.

Anonymous said...

I remember your glowing review of *Nefertiti*. I'm so glad to know *The Heretic Queen* met your high expectations!

Jill said...

I hadn't heard of this series - sounds like something I'd enjoy. I'm off to check out your review of the first one!

S. Krishna said...

I loved both of these books as well. Great review!

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

Hmmm--books you wish you had written yourself. What an interesting question! :) I haven't read either of these, but I'd really like to. I haven't read a whole lot about Egyptian history/past, but I do find it really fascinating. The King Tut exhibit is in Dallas right now and I can't wait to go see (although the mummy isn't here...).

Iliana said...

I'm so glad to hear you weren't disappointed with this one! I loved Nefertiti as well and this book is on my radar.

Toni said...

I have been wanting to read this book for quite some time! :)

Darlene said...

I've read both of Michelle's books and they are just awesome~both are favorites of mine. I can't wait to read her next one, that's for sure.

Anna said...

Bermudaonion: I can't wait to hear what you think of them!

Serena: I know her next book is called Cleopatra's Daughter.

Janel: I agree! I've been reading a lot of historical fiction myself, and I haven't yet found one to top Michelle's books in terms of writing quality. Don't get me wrong, though, I'm enjoying the ones I'm reading.

Jeanne: Cool! I hope you get a chance to read it soon.

Naida: I'm looking forward to hearing what you think about Michelle's books! I'm sure you'll love them.

Jo-Jo: I hope you get a chance to read them soon. They're sooo worth it!

Alyce: I can see myself re-reading them, too. At least reading them fast didn't detract from my enjoyment.

Jeannie: There are some historical facts in the books. She includes an explanation at the end of the book. Miss you, too!

Ladytink: You better move it to the top of your TBR pile, missy! ;P Seriously, if you enjoyed Nefertiti, you'll love this one.

Teddy Rose: Thanks! I hope you get to read it soon!

Dawn: Michelle outdid herself with this one!

Darla: I do hope you check out Michelle's books! I'm sure you'll enjoy them.

S. Krishna: Thanks!

Trish: I really had no interest in Egyptian history before reading Nefertiti, but I actually looked up some of the characters when I finished the books. The exhibit was in Philly last year, but we didn't get a chance to see it. A tad too far from home. :(

Iliana: I hope you get a chance to read it soon. I'd love to know what you think of it.

Toni: You definitely should read it and soon! ;)

Dar: I'm with you on that!

Carrie said...

This book sounds really intriguing. Thanks for the review!

Anna said...

Carrie: Thanks for stopping by! Hope you get a chance to read it.

Shana said...

Wow - yet another great review of this book! I can't wait to read it.

Anna said...

~Shana: I hope you get to read it soon. I can't say enough good things about it!