Set in ancient Egypt, The Heretic Queen follows the story of Nefertari, the niece and sole living heir of the erstwhile queen, Nefertiti. Following the events of Moran’s first book, Nefertiti, the royal family succumbs to a vicious palace fire, leaving behind no one but young Nefertari. But she is denied the right to her legacy on account of her family’s heretical past and is brought up by the Pharaoh’s Aunt. As Nefertari grows up to become a beautiful young woman, the crown prince, Ramesses falls in love with her and marries her despite his subject’s strong opposition. But her future, and that of the Egyptian empire, becomes uncertain as the country is soon beset with multiple political crises. What follows is a tale of emotional and political turbulence as Ramesses takes the throne to become Egypt’s most powerful Pharaoh.
My interest in anything Egyptian forced me to buy this novel in spite of being disappointed by Nefertiti. And as expected, I liked this one least in the trio of Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen & Cleopatra’s daughter.
Nefertari is very much like her saintly but foolish mother Mutnodjmet. She has none of the cunning of her aunt Nefertiti or her Grandfather Ay. After suffering the tragedy of losing her entire family it is her luck which gets her to where she eventually manages to reach, the Chief Wife of a Pharaoh. None of it is her own personal accomplishment. She is a brilliant student but lacks the diplomacy & tact needed of royalty. She is more of a forgive & forget sort of a person which makes her predictable & boring. It is luck & her maids blackmailing which ensures she gets to stay in the royal palace inspite of being a part of the Heretic’s family. This ensures she is in constant touch with Prince Ramasses which later turns into a love story. Again it is luck that Woserit & not Henuttaway takes an interest in her & mentors her to be queen. Luck gives her two twin sons & kills Iset’s first born son which goes a long way in ensuring that Nefertari is made the chief wife. The biggest favour her own luck does her is when Rahotep kills Henuttaway & gets caught. Two of her arch enemies end up destroying each other.
Ramasses is smitten by her since their days together in school. But for political reasons he marries Iset (Isetonefret) who is the daughter of a harem girl. Although Iset is supported by the evil aunt Henuttawy of Ramesses & often creates trouble for Nefertari in the end I pitied her a great deal. She pays a big price for being foolish & naive. She is not openly acknowledged by her own father, the High Priest of Amun Rahotep; Ramasses ignores her in favour of Nefertari; she is callously used by Henuttawy for her own selfish gains who drives away her first love to get her married to Ramasses.
I loved reading about ancient Egypt in the book, their customs, beliefs, Gods, practices, etc. Although many of these are already covered in Nefertiti I find the ancient world enchanting & worth reading time & again. Among the 3 books of Michelle Moran on Egypt Cleopatra’s daughter is the best. Nefertiti comes second & the last will be The Heretic Queen for me.
A one time read. A 3/5 for Michelle Moran’s beautiful story telling.