The Heretic Queen – by Michelle Moran – book review

A very satisfying historical novel that transports you back to Ancient Egypt’s 19th Dynasty, some 3200 years ago. The story focuses on Pharaoh Ramesses (or Ramses) II and his wife Nefertari (in this version, a descendant of the “one-God” rulers Akhenaten and Nefertiti. Yes, Ramses and Nefertari are the same royal couple you may remember from the famous movie, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. Awarded four stars on Goodreads. heretic_queen

But this story is not about Nefertari’s hatred of her husband/brother and hidden passion for Moses. That was, after all, a Hollywood fabrication. Instead, it’s about two people who grew up together and turned out to be soul mates.

Beginning when Nefertari is six years old, the novel is full of court intrigue, political maneuvering. and battles with neighboring countries. Lots of people want power and riches — including several high priestesses and high priests.

At the book’s beginning, Ramses is the son and obvious heir to Pharaoh Seti I. He soon becomes first co-ruler with his father and then lone Pharaoh, after his father’s death. Ramses, who is several years older than Nefertari, first marries Iset — a local beauty with not much else going on for her. But as Nefertari grows up, she benefits from an extensive education and a natural facility with languages and turns out to be both beautiful AND brainy. (It’s a bit of a feminist story.) Ramses obviously becomes captivated by his one time childhood friend.

Iset and Nefertari begin as rivals. But circumstances soon show how valuable Nefertari’s knowledge is to the running of the country. And, as was true in history, Ramses and Nefertari turn out to be a true love match, even though he later goes on to add another five wives.

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Author Michelle Moran

If you have an interest in ancient Egyptian history, don’t miss this novel. Though a work of fiction, as the author readily admits in the Afterword, it is based on research. And it’s full of the symbols and rituals known to be part of one of the most fascinating civilizations, featuring many of the monuments (i.e. Ramesseum, AbuSimbel, etc.) that can still be seen today.

More about the author, Michelle Moran.