Egypt: 1400s B.C. Hatshepsut is the indulged second daughter of Pharoah Tutmose I. After the tragic death of her older sister, Hatshepsut is expected to wed her half-brother and become the Great Royal Wife. But Hatshepsut has ambitions for greater things than living out her days in the Hall of Women, and begins a journey that will end with her becoming one of the most powerful female rulers in ancient history.
I was obsessed with ancient Egypt as a child. This alien culture growing and thriving on the banks of the Nile was always so delightfully mysterious. That same alienness might be why ancient Egypt is rather underrepresented in historical fiction. Readers have a glut of novels detailing World War II, ancient Rome, and don’t even get me started on the Tudors. But ancient Egypt, a land where it was the height of fashion to have every hair plucked off your body, where it was considered practical to bear your brother’s children in order to preserve bloodlines, can be a little difficult to wrap our heads around.
Thornton’s novel doesn’t shy away from any of this. She presents her novel through her heroine’s eyes, and for Hatshepsut, all these things that are extraordinary to our modern sensibilities are perfectly normal. Going in, it does help to have a basic understanding of the Egyptian pantheon. Within the first few pages, the gods Re, Hathor, Bastet, Sekhmet, and Nut are mentioned. They are not accompanied with a lot of explanation, so it might be useful to have a chart of their mythology available. Same goes for a map of Egypt and perhaps a basic chronology of their civilization.
With or without the extra research, this novel is easily to submerge yourself in. Once you understand the numerous references to various deities, the story of Hatshepsut and her journey to the throne of Egypt is a compelling one. She is acknowledged as one of the first women of power, and yet almost everything we know of her life is pure speculation. Thornton does an admirable job of filling in the gaps, adding a small romantic element, and painting a portrait of a woman who uses her intelligence, daring, and political acumen to cement her place in Egyptian history.
Why is Hatshepsut so shrouded in mystery? It’s impossible to know, but historians all agree that sometime shortly after her reign, nearly all her images were stricken, and her monuments pulled down. Because Hatshepsut’s rule was marked by a long period of peace and prosperity for Egypt, it is thought that subsequent male rules wanted to erase all evidence of a successful female pharaoh from the historical record. Call it an ancient case of fragile masculinity. Whatever the case, a few carvings and monuments survived to tell Hatshepsut’s story, and Thornton picks up these pieces and runs with them.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Anyone interested in learning about one of the most fascinating civilization in ancient history, as well as one of the first powerful women in the world would do well to go find a copy of The Daughter of the Gods.
My rating: 4/5
Happy reading everyone!