The world of Nefertari is brought to life in Michelle Moran’s exciting work of historical fiction, The Heretic Queen.
In Ancient Egypt as the star of the nineteenth dynasty takes the throne, it is from the previous, despised, dynasty he will take his queen.
The eighteenth dynasty of Egypt has burned. The hated Nefertiti and Akhenaten along with their monotheistic regime are gone. Nefertari, niece of Nefertiti, is the only remnant of this royal family that remains.
Taken in by Seti I and raised in his court she is given free reign to run wild and do as she pleases. But as she grows older Nefertari realizes she must find a stable position in the dynasty or be cast aside.
Under the guidance of the Priestess of Hathor (and Seti’s sister) Nefertari is taught and cultured. Learning everything a queen would need to know.
When Ramses II becomes pharaoh it is Nefertari that catches his eye, and the two wed. But Nefertari comes from a family of branded heretics; from a dynasty the people of Egypt fear will be repeated.
As tensions run high and with scheming political adversaries around every corner, Nefertari will have to work quickly and cleverly to save the man she loves, and prove to the people of Egypt that she is deserving of being his queen.
Thoughts on The Heretic Queen
This is an excellent work of historical fiction. It keeps the suspense up even as it pulls from legitimate and well researched historical fact.
I really enjoy Michelle Moran’s work, especially how she always finds a fairly well known period of history, and then tells it from the perspective of a not well known character.
Although she was queen to Ramses, not much is known about Nefertari. Part of that is because Ramses the Great kind of eclipsed everything, but another reason is because Nefertari herself is kind of a mystery. Even though her tomb has been discovered, archaeologists still debate over who she actually was and where she came from.
The most likely theory is the one Michelle Moran uses in this book: that Nefertari was the niece of Nefertiti. Having the story told by Nefertari herself was also very well done and I highly enjoyed it.
It is clear that Moran did her research as Nefertari’s thoughts and actions are so believable that sometimes you have to remember that this is fiction!
Nefertari herself I loved. She was a very complex character just as the real Nefertari was a complex woman. I liked how you got to see from the perspective of an actual wife of a pharaoh, how that job description was much more involved than people think.
Obviously as his wife you have to give him children, preferably male children, and for a Princess of Egypt that is as far as it goes; but not for a Queen. I like how this book showed Nefertari’s intelligence, cleverness, and tactfulness in matters of politics especially with other empires. She was not just a pretty face.
The romance in this story was eye-opening. I never considered that the pharaoh in Ancient Egypt who had so many wives could legitimately love one of them. I suppose that’s modern bias, but reading this book changed all of that.
Underneath all the political tension and battles with invading empires, this is a love story at heart. There are numerous occasions in the book where Ramses shows that he truly loves Nefertari; especially when he favors her over his other wife Iset. Reading this romance gave me goosebumps it was so beautiful.
Of course it wasn’t all a bed of roses as Nefertari finds herself working against many adversaries who will do anything to make sure Ramses does not name her his Chief Wife, and thus Queen of Egypt.
Her main allies include her beloved nurse Merit who raised her and Woserit Priestess of Hathor and one of Pharaoh Seti’s sisters.
But it is Pharaoh’s other sister, Henuttway a Priestess of Isis, Nefertari must watch out for. She is backing Iset to become Ramses’s queen and will do anything to make sure it happens; even betray him.
The Heretic Queen will keep you on the edge of your seat as you follow Nefertari through war, love, and political ambitions as she fights for her place at Ramses’s side.
From her own witty perspective Nefertari shares her story, and perhaps even sheds some light on the real Nefertari. The only woman to ever enchant the heart of Ramses the Great.
My Recommendation: This book can be found in the adult fiction section of any bookstore, but I’d say around sixteen and up would be fine to read it. Remember just because something is in the adult section does not necessarily mean that someone under eighteen can’t enjoy reading it!
Author: Michelle Moran
Genre(s): historical fiction, romance
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
First Released: 2008