Michelle Moran must have a passion for ancient Egypt. Her first book, “Nefertiti,” explores the life and legend of one of Egypt’s most infamous rulers. In her second book, “The Heretic Queen,” Moran focused on a queen whose name may not be as familiar as Nefertiti’s but whose reign may have been one of the most significant for her people.
Nefertari, according to historians, is believed to be the niece of Queen Nefertiti, also known to the Egyptians as The Heretic Queen. (Nefertiti and her Pharoah husband Akhenaten abandoned Egypt’s original gods for a single, all-powerful deity – a move that was very unpopular with the people of Egypt.) After the coronation of her childhood friend and young Pharaoh Ramesses II, Nefertari believes her place in the palace is no longer certain. Will she be forgotten and forced into life as a lonely priestess as Ramesses marries and eventually becomes the sole ruler of Egypt? It seems this way, until Ramesses’ aunt Woserit takes Nefertari under her wing and educates her at the Temple of Hathor. The hope for both women is that, within a year or two, Ramesses will ask Nefertari to not only marry him, but become his Chief Wife – the queen who participates in the most important political and social affairs alongside the Pharoah. What follows after Nefertari returns to the palace are some of the most defining moments in her personal life and in Egyptian history.
I have to admit, I profoundly admire writers of historical fiction. They must have great tenacity and patience to research their subjects before or during the writing process. Michelle Moran is a great example of this. She touches on all aspects of ancient Egyptian culture: architecture, food, clothing, courtship, religion, just to name a few things. Also, she discusses the conflicts between Egypt and other cultures/kingdoms of the time, particularly the battle for Kadesh (in modern-day Syria) against the Hittites. This adds obvious tension and drama to the story as well as more historical perspective. Moran does explain in the afterword that some minor events, characters, conversations, and personality traits were created for the novel’s sake. This is understandable and expected; after all, this is historical fiction. How are we to know what actually happened?
In terms of critiquing, I couldn’t find anything that bothered me or seemed out of place. “The Heretic Queen” is honestly a well developed, well written novel that takes you back in time to one of the most fascinating peoples in history. You won’t get too lost in all the names, places, and Egyptian words; Moran has included a glossary, a map, and a family tree to help the reader. If you enjoy historical fiction, a good love story, or learning about ancient Egypt, then “The Heretic Queen” should be on your reading list.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
“The Heretic Queen” is available online and in booksellers worldwide. Click here to learn more about Michelle Moran and to purchase her books.