I have been fascinated with Hatshepsut since my introduction to her in Pauline Gedge’s Child of the Morning. What an awesome woman! She ascended the throne of Egypt, proclaimed herself Pharaoh, and led her country into a period of wealth and prosperity. Her name survived thousands of years, even though her nephew (and step-son), attempted to obliterate all knowledge of her from history. When I saw that Stephanie Thornton had written a book about my historical idol, I had to read it!
I enjoyed this imagining of Hatshepsut’s life. Starting with her days as a willful child, we journey with the young princess as she is forced to take a very different path in life than she had planned. After her older sister dies in an accident for which Hatshepsut bares some of the blame, she finds herself in the position of the future Great Royal Wife. Dreading her impending marriage to her half-brother, she none the less dutifully fulfills her obligation to Egypt. This part of the book was my least favorite. Hatshepsut has been educated to help rule the kingdom, but her brother, Thut, a weak-willed man with no appetite for expanding his territory or solidifying his place in history, forbids her from assisting him with his duties as Pharaoh. After she is accused of having an affair with her brother’s advisor, Senenmut, life becomes even more grim for her. She’s beaten by Thut, and forbidden from leaving the Hall of Women. She lives in disgrace, her only duty being to produce an heir for the Pharaoh. What a waste of her intelligence and ambition, not to mention what a crappy way to have to live. Thut treats with no respect at all. Ugh.
After Thut’s untimely death, Hatshepsut is named regent for her young step-son (and nephew), Thutmose. She’s finally given the reins to the kingdom, and she’s finally allowed to flourish. It’s here that her internal war begins. There’s an attempt made on her life, and now she has a difficult decision to make. Does she do what’s best for Egypt and seize the throne for herself, or continue to safeguard it for Thutmose. While it’s evident that she loves her people and wants them to live in peace and safety, there’s also her ambition and desire to live forever throughout history. She knows that her ambition will splinter important relationships in her life, but she goes ahead and proclaims herself Pharaoh. She’s one driven woman!
I liked the details of Egyptian daily life, though I would have hated to be anything but royalty in Hatshepsut’s time. The peasants didn’t have easy lives, and the thought of eating sandy bread and hardly any meat – not so appealing. Hatshepsut’s diet, on the other hand, was full of succulent dishes. Roast ox, ostrich, gazelle, swan – you name it, it was probably served at the royal table. A foodie’s paradise. I still don’t understand why anyone would want to wear a wax cone on their head that would melt and drip perfume on the wearer, but these touches of life along the Nile gave the book color and depth. How I would have loved taking a glance in Hatshepsut’s jewelry box!
The great love of Hatshepsut’s life, other than Egypt, was Senenmut, a commoner she elevated to a position of power and wealth. He designed and oversaw the construction of her tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The depiction of their relationship is passionate and enduring. They both sacrificed for her rule, though I’m not sure who was forced to give up the most. Senenmut’s desire for children of his own went unfulfilled to prevent a potential civil war. Though Hatshepsut boldly took the throne, she always intended to give it back to Thutmose in the future. If she had any children, there might be a threat to Thutmose’s rule, so poor Senenmut’s desire to have children was another sacrifice for Egypt.
In the end, I felt a little sorry for this powerful woman. She gave up everything to guide her people, only to have almost every reference to her years of ruling Egypt erased from monuments and records. While I bought into Thutmose’s motivation for trying to hit the delete key on his aunt, I still find it gratifying that thousands of years after her rule, Hatshepsut’s name and legacy still live on. She was an unconventional woman who wasn’t willing to just sit on the sidelines and watch life pass her by. Even knowing the cost, she still choose to march to her own beat.
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Formats: eBook, Paperback
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….
Once again, Stephanie Thornton brings to life a remarkable woman from the distant past whose willingness to defy tradition changed the course of history.
Praise for Daughter of the Gods
“Daughter of the Gods is a wonderfully intimate and dramatic evocation of Ancient Egypt, where one headstrong young woman dares to become pharaoh. Stephanie Thornton vividly portrays the heat and the danger, the passion and the heartbreak of Hatshepsut’s struggle, as she defies even the gods to ensure success on the throne of Egypt. A touching love story combines with a thrilling tale of death, courage and political intrigue to produce a superbly researched and powerfully written novel. This is the kind of book that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. A remarkable story, remarkably told.” -Kate Furnivall, author of Shadows on the Nile
“Stephanie Thornton’s heroines are bold, brave, and powerful–they make me want to stand up and cheer!” -Kate Quinn, author of Lady of the Eternal City
“Daughter of the Gods is a full-out, total immersion experience of ancient Egypt. From her moving love affair with a commoner to her fierce and unwavering commitment to Egypt as a female Pharaoh, Hatshepsut crackles with fascinating complexity. Her ka must be grinning with pleasure at this richly textured account of her life, one that is worthy of the great queen herself. “ -Vicky Alvear Shecter, author of Cleopatra’s Moon “An epic saga that brings ancient Egypt to life with vivid imagery and lovely prose. Stephanie Thornton is a rising star!” -Stephanie Dray, author of Lily of the Nile
Buy the Book
About the Author
Stephanie Thornton is a writer and history teacher who has been obsessed with infamous women from ancient history since she was twelve. She lives with her husband and daughter in Alaska, where she is at work on her next novel.
“The Secret History: A Novel of Empress Theodora” is available from NAL/Penguin, and “Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt” will hit the shelves May 2014 and “The Tiger Queens: A Novel of Genghis Khan” will follow in Fall 2014.