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Nefertiti: Queen of Egypt, Daughter of Eternity    by Michelle Moran order for
by Michelle Moran
Order:  USA  Can
Three Rivers, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Nefertiti: Queen of Egypt, Daughter of Eternity, Michelle Moran tells a tale of two sisters, showing us the legendary beauty through the eyes of her younger sister, cat-eyed Mutnodjmet. The half sisters grew up as close companions, daughters of the powerful and wealthy Vizier Ay, himself brother to the Elder Pharaoh's Queen Tiye. The story begins when Nefertiti is fifteen and her sister thirteen. Crown Prince Tuthmosis, his parents' favorite, has just died from a chariot accident and his unstable younger brother Amunhotep is heir. Nefertiti's family have for three generations given wives to Egypt's Pharaohs and it's hoped that, as Chief Wife, the strong-willed young woman will act as a calming influence on the unpredictable prince.

But Amunhotep already has a wife, Kiya, of whom he's very fond, and she's pregnant with his first son. This creates an insecurity in Nefertiti (who ends up bearing only daughters) that reduces her control over her husband. She encourages his grandiose passion for building (including a new capital at Amarna) and his worship of Aten (offending the rich and powerful priesthood of Amun) to secure her pre-eminent position, and doesn't stand against his neglect of Egypt's army and loss of territory to the Hittites - they 'spent Egypt poor for a city in the desert.' Of course Nefertiti wants her family close, in particular her sister Mutny as Chief Lady, despite the fact that Mutnodjmet would prefer a quiet country life, tending her garden and harvesting herbs to treat illness. Mutny's life becomes one of attendance on her manipulative sister's whims, suppressing her own desires.

Despite this focus, early in her new life, Mutnodjmet meets a young general, Nakhtmin, who's out of favor with Amunhotep. After they fall in love and Mutny becomes pregnant with Nakhtmin's child, tragedy creates a wide gulf between the sisters. But Mutnodjmet still comes when her sister needs her, and is with her for key events in her reign with Amunhotep (who reinvented himself as Akhenaten) - and for the latter's downfall from pride and plague. It's an absorbing tale, steeped in Egyptology and 'pieced together from the hundreds of images excavated at Amarna.' Moran's Nefertiti is presented as a Diana figure, though less for good works than for her charisma and popularity. I very much enjoyed her interpretation, which emphasizes the strength of family bonds and especially the relationship between sisters.

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