Queens! Queens! Yeah, I’m on a historical fiction about women roll. I read Michelle Moran’s Madame Tussaud last year and liked her writing. Her dialogue is not as forced as Phillipa Gregory’s can be …
“My dear cousin, the Duke of Buckingham, sent me a letter,” she exclaimed to her sister.
Did people really call their dearest by their titles at all times? Couldn’t Cousin Buckie be sufficient? I know her books have a large number of characters but she doesn’t always have to remind us who everyone is.
But it also didn’t read like a Sharon Kay Penman history disguised as a novel …
“Pamplona was an ancient city, founded by the Roman general Pompey.” (That’s an actual quote.)
I love Penman. Fabulous author. Well-researched novels. And a wonderful sleep aid.
So, because I liked her other book, I thought I’d try out some more of her novels. She is a relatively new historical fiction writer with only four books currently. The Heretic Queen is one of three about Egyptian queens, starting with Nefertiti and going to Cleopatra’s Daughter. This is not a series and they can be read independently. The Heretic Queen is about Nefertari, wife of Ramses II of the Nineteenth dynasty, and her struggle to become Queen.
I really enjoyed the novel and the main character although I wasn’t sure I would at first. The weakest point of the book is the beginning. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to write a historical novel about ancient Egypt and maintain any historical accuracy. It must be ten times harder to write a novel about ancient Egypt with the main characters as children. Whoa. Those kids were, well, kids, and how do you write about kids in ancient Egypt? Children in most cultures and time periods have been considered miniature adults up until the 20th century’s cult of kids emerged. It was pretty risky for her to start out a book focused on three pre-teens, but Nefertari develops well and we move on with less awkward dialogue after the first few chapters.
Personally, knowing nothing about ancient Egypt, Moran seems to have done her homework. She integrates Egyptian terminology seamlessly and her descriptions are well developed. I found myself easily able to imagine the palace and the rooms in which these characters lived. I may be easy to please, but if I can feel immersed in a character and a scene, then I usually am quite happy with a book.
It was that level of immersion that I felt in Madame Tussaud. I was happy to see it again in The Heretic Queen. I have her other two Egyptian novels on my shelf (thank you paperback swap!) and look forward to seeing more novels from Moran.