Sunday, June 22, 2014
Daughter of the Gods by Stephanie Thornton
4.0 out of 5 stars - "Egypt will prosper, but those closest to you shall find only anguish and ruin."
This fascinating historical fiction account of the life and reign of Hatshepsut circa 1400s Egypt is rich in detail and demonstrates the author's meticulous research into a woman who would be Pharaoh. Although liberties are certainly taken with descriptions of family strife and the romance between Hatshepsut and the commoner Senenmut, the tale is rife with interesting glimpses into the social customs, religion and habits of those who lived in that period of time in the rich Nile River valley Kingdom.
I loved reading about the clothes, the food, the jewelry -- it was interesting that Hatshepsut shaved her head to wear the required wig and even had to put on a fake beard when appearing before her subjects in official capacity at times. That many had teeth worn to nubs because of the constant presence of sand even in the bread. I could almost feel the press of the relentless sun and heat in the daytime hours, and the relative coolness of the nighttime with a slight breeze wafting off the river that both gave and took life. I could see the crocodiles lazing about the banks of the Nile and appreciate the gloriousness of the shining gold and solid granite in the monuments, obelisks, palaces and temples. This type of description absolutely hooks me and I always want more of it! I would have LOVED to see a map illustrating this place during the years that Hatshepsut and family ruled the Horus Throne.
What didn't enthrall me? The romance. The "plucky" Hatshepsut at times seemed to make completely stupid decisions and choices. The development, or lack thereof, of the secondary characters. The constant reference to the many, many gods and the various names and forms of them. I realize that the ancient Egyptians had a fixation on their gods and made sacrifices and attributed everything in their lives to the gods they worshiped, but it seemed sometimes redundant how much of the book was about pleasing the gods, signs from the gods, the afterlife, spirits, etc. I'm sure it's just my own personal reaction and that other readers might not find it as irritating.
I did enjoy the book and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in how a second daughter of Pharaoh Thutmose came to such an unprecedented level of power, to become Pharaoh herself, and to bring a great time of prosperity to both Upper and Lower Egypt. Once again, this book brought out the researcher in me as I try to separate fact from fiction.
Oh -- I LOVE the look of the cover art chosen for this book. I'm a sucker for realistic depictions of characters on the front of a book -- only wish that I would have seen the kohl and the henna as described in the novel instead of the way Hatshepsut is shown without any of that.