Egypt, 1400s BC. The pharaoh’s pampered second daughter, lively, intelligent Hatshepsut, delights in racing her chariot through the marketplace and testing her archery skills in the Nile’s marshlands. But the death of her elder sister, Neferubity, in a gruesome accident arising from Hatshepsut’s games forces her to confront her guilt...and sets her on a profoundly changed course.
Hatshepsut enters a loveless marriage with her half brother, Thut, to secure his claim to the Isis Throne and produce a male heir. But it is another of Thut’s wives, the commoner Aset, who bears him a son, while Hatshepsut develops a searing attraction for his brilliant adviser Senenmut. And when Thut suddenly dies, Hatshepsut becomes de facto ruler, as regent to her two-year-old nephew.
Once, Hatshepsut anticipated being free to live and love as she chose. Now she must put Egypt first. Ever daring, she will lead a vast army and build great temples, but always she will be torn between the demands of leadership and the desires of her heart. And even as she makes her boldest move of all, her enemies will plot her downfall...
Last year I read and loved Stephanie Thornton's debut novel, The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on her second novel, Daughter of the Gods, a novel about Egypt's first female pharaoh, Hatshepsut. One of only three surviving legitimate children of Pharaoh Tutmose, Hatshepsut is raised in a world of privilege and luxury, but it is also a dangerous world, where the whims of the capricious Egyptian gods decide the fate of the people and the success or failure of their rulers. After the tragic death of her beloved older sister, Hatshepsut is thrust into a role she never expected to be in, that of the Great Royal Wife of the next pharaoh, her brother, Thutmosis. With their father on his deathbed, the marriage must take place immediately to stave off any unrest or attempts at undermining the royal family's claim to the throne. Forced to give up her wild ways, her hunting expeditions, her chariot races, and her handsome young lover, Hatshepsut accepts the mantle of responsibility the gods have handed her and attempts to transform herself into the perfect wife and matriarch of the Egyptian dynasty.
But much as she loves her brother, being married to him is more difficult than she'd hoped. Thut is an ineffectual ruler, and Hatshepsut longs to wield the power her brother is so careless with. With subtle manipulation, and the help of Thut's most trusted adviser, the handsome commoner Senenmut, Hatshepsut slowly takes command over many of her husband's responsibilities, taking control of her own life and the future she hopes to have. But the arrival of a rival for her brother's affections and the threat she brings to the royal succession begin to unravel Hatshepsut's carefully laid plans. Frustrated and lonely, she seeks out a moment of comfort and affection with Senenmut, but that one moment of self-indulgence will cost her everything she holds dear, harden her heart, and set her on a path of determination to seize the throne of Egypt for herself.
And that's all I'm telling you! Hatshepsut's life is full of drama, twists and turns, triumphs and betrayals, and heartbreaking tragedies, and I'll not spoil any of it! Since following generations sought to remove evidence of a female on the throne of Egypt, presumably to prevent it from happening again, much of Hatshepsut's life story is lost. While not much is known about her personal life, most historians agree that she presided over a long period of peace, wealth, and prosperity in Egypt, successfully keeping rebellious kingdoms in check and taking Egypt's monumental architecture to new heights. I think Ms. Thornton has done a great job of piecing together known facts with plausible fictional scenarios to paint a portrait of what a young Hatshepsut might have been like. It was very easy to care about Hatsehpsut and root for her dreams to come true as a younger woman, but as she aged and took over the reins of Egypt, I found her a little harder to relate to at times, or at least I had a harder time agreeing with some of the decisions she made. But I certainly respected her utmost devotion to Egypt, often at the expense of her own happiness. And I was a little disappointed at the abruptness of Hatshepsut's exit from the story since she still had at least a dozen more years left in her reign, but I did really like the poignant final scene, and I thought it a fitting ending to this pioneering woman's moment in time.
As she did with Ancient Rome in The Secret History, Ms. Thornton has once again brought a long-lost world to life and created a treat for the senses! In Daughter of the Gods, Ancient Egypt comes to life in all its hot, dusty, vibrantly colored glory. The depictions of royal and everyday life, the palaces, temples, and monuments, the wildlife, the mighty Nile, the barges, the chariots, the war campaigns, the celebratory feasts, and even the quieter moments of reflection in exotic gardens--it all serves as a lush and inviting setting for a story of a powerful woman, beckoning the reader to get lost in its depths yet always warning those who revel in it that a current of danger is ever present, nothing is guaranteed, everything exists at the pleasure--or displeasure--of the gods, and all can be lost in the blink of an eye. Stephanie Thornton's novels are perfect for fans of authors like Kate Quinn, Stephanie Dray, and Michelle Moran, and this fan can't wait for her third novel to be released this fall, The Tiger Queens: A Novel of Genghis Khan's Women.
My Rating: 4 Stars out of 5
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