Review of Nefertiti by Michelle Moran
Overview from www.bn.com: Nefertiti and her younger sister, Mutnodjmet, have been raised in a powerful family that has provided wives to the rulers of Egypt for centuries. Ambitious, charismatic, and beautiful, Nefertiti is destined to marry Amunhotep, an unstable young pharaoh. It is hoped that her strong personality will temper the young ruler’s heretical desire to forsake Egypt’s ancient gods.
From the moment of her arrival in Thebes, Nefertiti is beloved by the people but fails to see that powerful priests are plotting against her husband’s rule. The only person brave enough to warn the queen is her younger sister, yet remaining loyal to Nefertiti will force Mutnodjmet into a dangerous political game; one that could cost her everything she holds dear.
This week’s selection came to me by way of last week’s. I had checked out Madame Tussaud from the library’s e-book selection and, as you may have read last week, I liked it a lot. Then when I went to visit the library last week I found a hardcover copy of another one of Michelle Moran’s books. It turns out that it was her first and it is called Nefertiti.
As the title suggests, the book’s subject is Nefertiti, as told through the eyes of her half-sister (not a full sister as the publisher's summary above suggests), Mutnodjmet (or Mutny). Although I love history, I can’t claim to know much about the title character. I knew that she was important in Ancient Egyptian history and might have even been a Pharaoh in her own right after her husband’s death but beyond that I knew nothing.
Moran paints a picture of her as a queen and “chief wife” that is both ruthless and ambitious yet at the same time vulnerable. From an early age she is made aware of the fact that she will be the wife of a Pharaoh. (Another error in the summary as she was originally destined to marry Tuthmosis since he was next in line to the throne.) But when the crown prince Tuthmosis dies her future is in doubt.
Her father, the Vizier Ay, does not like the new prince, Amunhotep IV. After the death of Tuthmosis, Ay sees how the brother behaves and swears he will never allow a daughter of his to be married to the man. There are suggestions that the younger brother killed the elder in a bid for the throne and out of hatred for all of the things that his brother does that he does not agree with. But he quickly relents when he realizes that a rival vizier whose daughter, Kiya, is already married to the new prince would control his family’s destiny since Amunhotep is already under Kiya’s spell.
When they are first married, Nefertiti is not the favored wife. She must use cunning and seduction on her husband if she is ever to get him to see her as someone special, something more than his mother’s choice of a “chief wife.”
The story covers her efforts to first gain Pharaoh’s affection and then go beyond that and become a co-regent herself. She is the key to her family’s dream. She will make sure that they are remembered for all eternity but at what cost? Will she go too far?
Moran presents a Nefertiti that seems often selfish and callous but at the same time we see that there is real affection between her and Mutny, and at times between Nefertiti and her husband. Still Mutny wonders if it the Queen’s feeling for her stem only from her selfishness and insecurities. She often tells Mutny that she doesn’t really understand what she is going through. And she wants to deny her a family of her own in order to have her always available.
In the end, Mutny rejects this and makes something of a life of her own but she always comes back. She can never entirely leave her sister to her own devices. And so she is there still during the birth of the future King Tut. She is there at her sister’s death. She is always there to keep her memory alive.
Contains: some violence, sensuality