Mutny helps her sister, Nefertiti, navigate the religious and political intrigue of the Egyptian court to become the Queen of Egypt that will help stabilize the empire from an obsessive and radical Pharaoh. Mutny, daughter of one of the Viziers of Egypt, is a wealthy young woman who spends most of her time studying the medicinal properties of herbs. The story begins with Mutnodjmet (Mutny) attending the funeral of Thutmosis, the Crown Prince of Egypt. Mutny's family is very close to the Pharaoh since the current Queen of Egypt is her father's sister. After the funeral, her family witnesses the Pharoah arguing with his other son, Prince Amunhotep about whether he is ready to be next in line for the throne. Prince Amunhotep is obsessed with the sun god Aten which disturbs Mutny because traditionally all Pharoahs pray to Amun-Ra, the father of all gods and goddesses. She's even more alarmed when her beautiful and charming older sister, Nefertiti becomes betrothed to Amunhotep. The Queen of Egypt is worried that her son is unstable and is trying to find a wife that will make him come to his senses. Their family will move to the capital of Egypt, Thebes, where Nefertiti will be wed to the new Crown Prince Amunhotep.
Click here to see the rest of this review
While Nefertiti's body servant prepares her to meet the Prince, Mutny encounters one of the Prince's first wives, Kiya, who schemes to make sure Nefertiti doesn't garner more favor from the Crown Prince than she does. Kiya is pregnant and if she gives birth to a son, Amunhotep may pay more attention to her. Nefertiti and her father plot to find ways to capture the Prince's attention so that Kiya will be less powerful. Meanwhile, Mutny is to remain by Nefertiti's side as a trustworthy confidant.
Mutny struggles with her new life because all the powerful figures try to maneuver Nefertiti out of the Prince's way and they use Mutny's innocence to their advantage. Nefertiti is very adept at charming the Prince, however, and soon the Prince shares his deepest secret ambitions with her. Even though Nefertiti was brought to be the Prince's wife so that she can bring balance to the Prince's thoughts, she is instead increasing the Prince's fervor to worship Aten. Meanwhile, Nefertiti tries to get pregnant so that she will have children who are heir to the throne. One evening, Mutny meets General Nakhtmin, who controls the Prince's army. The Prince doesn't like the General however Mutny and Nefertiti find him intriguing.
The Prince moves his royal court to his palace in the city of Memphis. The Prince has plans to build a temple to Aten there and he throws gold on the streets to make the people love him. Mutny's father is worried that the Priests will revolt because the Prince is planning to tear down Temples to Amun in order to make space for his new temples. When the High Priest refuses to let the Prince collect taxes from the temple, the Prince orders his death. Nefertiti pretends she has a dream that Kiya's father is to become the new High Priest of Aten. This evicts Kiya's father from his current position as treasure, allowing her own father to take the role.
The Prince insists that the temples be built as fast as possible and even forces some of his soldiers to help, leaving the Egyptian borders weakly defended against Hittite attacks. Meanwhile, Nefertiti is finally pregnant but Kiya is already about to give birth. Nefertiti pretends to be deathly ill just so she can keep the Prince by her side even when Kiya is giving birth to a son called Nebnefer. During Nefertiti's pregnancy, everyone is afraid that a Priest may orchestrate someone to assassinate her. Nefertiti is also obsessed that the Temple to Aten should be finished so that when she gives birth to her child, it will be the first to be blessed by Aten and will ensure that Amuhotep choose her child be heir to the throne. When Nefertiti does give birth it is to a girl, however.
The Prince hears that his father is ill and he hastens his death with poison so that he can become Pharaoh. Nefertiti also takes drastic measures to assert herself as the rightful Queen of Egypt, even changing her appearance by shaving her head and wearing a flat-topped crown. She becomes obsessed with helping her husband be a Pharaoh that Egypt has never seen before, a Pharaoh that will go down in history. As the new Queen, Nefertiti helps the Pharaoh choose a new site to become the capital of the Egyptian empire and names the city Amarna. The Pharaoh commands that all the Temples to Amun be sealed and the temples to other gods be destroyed in order to force people to worship Aten. He even chooses a new name for himself – Akhenaten.
Meanwhile, Mutny is tired of waiting hand and foot on Nefertiti. She has fallen in love with the General Nakhmin. The Pharaoh doesn't like the General and Nefertiti doesn't want to let Mutny have her own life as this will mean Mutny will leave her. Despite this, Mutny decides she will marry for love. She sleeps with the General and a few months later finds out she is pregnant. When Nefertiti finds out, she is furious. In revenge for her disobedience, the General is sent across enemy lines to fight the Hittites and Mutny is inadvertently fed poison to have a miscarriage. Mutny is devastated and can't forgive her sister for what she's done. Nefertiti grows into an unstoppable force that not even her husband the Pharaoh can control. Everyone is afraid of her jealousy and wrath. A few months later, Nefertiti is gives birth to another girl.
Over the next year, Nefertiti becomes increasingly suspicious that someone is trying to poison her – she even suspects her own sister, Mutny. Mutny falls out of favor with the Pharaoh for her disobedient nature and it is only because Nefertiti insists that she remain at her side that Mutny is not harmed. There is news that the Hittites are sweeping through the northern fringes of Egypt and may do a full force invasion of Egypt, soon. Mutny fears for the General's life but somehow he and the Vizier of war defeat the Hittite army and return to Memphis, expecting to be rewarded. When they return, the citizens of Memphis start chanting their names and this displeases Akhenaten because he wants to be the one they regard as the ultimate bringer of peace and happiness. He orders the General, Vizier and their soldiers to be executed. The General is only spared because Nefertiti spoke to her husband on behalf of Mutny.
That night, Mutny reunites with the General and they flee from Memphis to marry and build their own home on the banks of the Nile. Later, the newlywed couple hear news that a rebellion against Akhenaten is stirring, as the people are hungry and over-taxed. One day, Mutny is summoned back to the palace as Nefertiti is about to give birth to her third child. It is again a girl. Nefertiti confides in Mutny that she feels very lonely and that she doesn't even think Akhenaten loves her anymore as he often goes to spend time with Kiya. She feels like she's the one running the kingdom and the one the people love yet she feels very insecure about her power. Things become even more tense when there is news that Kiya is pregnant again. This time, Kiya falls mysteriously ill and has a miscarriage. Everyone thinks Nefertiti did it to ensure there would be no contest for the throne. Nefertiti is enraged when Mutny confronts her about it and she ends up being banished from Memphis.
A few months after returning to her home with the General, Mutny hears that Nefertiti has given birth to another daughter. Months later, Nefertiti again summons Mutny to the palace. This time, she may be pregnant with twins and the physicians think it will be a dangerous birth. Nefertiti forgives Mutny and Mutny stays by her sister's side until Nefertiti again gives birth, this time to twin daughters. Meanwhile, Mutny is delighted to find out that she is pregnant with a child of her own.
With the help of scheming from loyal Priests of Aten, Nefertiti again has a holy vision and she proclaims that Nebnefer, the current most likely heir to the throne, will betray Akhenaten. She also has a vision that her own daughter, Meritanen is the most loyal of all the Akehnaten's children. Akhenaten, who is very religious, believes Nefertiti's vision and his affections begin to focus on Nefertiti's daughter. A few months later, there is word again that Kiya is pregnant.
Akhenaten invites Egypt's enemies, the Hittites to see the royal city as a show of power and wealth. For a few weeks, Amarna has many festivities and celebrations to promote Akhenaten's reign while the Hittites are visiting. Then, the plague hits Egypt. The palace is sealed from the outside world to prevent the spread of disease and there is rioting in the streets. A pregnant Mutny is trapped inside. She hears the sounds of people destroying and burning the temples and statues of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. One day, she gives birth to a healthy boy that she names Baraka, though she is worried that the plague will infect him.
Eventually, the plague enters and infects those in the palace. Everyone is quarantined in their rooms and commanded to make a mark on their door if they succumb to the plague. All of Nefertiti's daughters die from the plague except for Meritanen. Outside, the people begin praying to Amun, thinking that their worship to Aten was the reason why the plague has hit their city. The General informs everyone that the Assyrians are about to march upon the capital and that he and Mutny should leave the city as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Akhenaten has gone completely mad from the loss of his children and the destruction of his city. He ends up succumbing to the plague and dying. Nefertiti tries to take control of the empire and calls herself Pharaoh Nefertiti and she makes her daughter, Meritanen, a co-regent. Her first plan to quell the unrest in the city is to tell everyone that Egypt is going to war against the Hittites. She also pledges her faith to Amun and calls her husband a heretic Pharaoh. This appeases the people.
Kiya gives birth to a son but dies in the pregnancy. Mutny takes the child under her care and calls him Tutankhaten. Meanwhile, Nefertiti still visits the priests of Aten, even though she is officially a worshiper of Amun, now. She and her daughter end up being assassinated by the priests of Aten, ending the reign of Nefertiti.
The story ends with Tutankhaten made the ruler of Egypt, as he's the only living son of the Pharaoh.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like following how Nefertiti began her life as an innocent, charming and people-pleasing young girl and became a paranoid, power-hungry, ruthless and insecure Queen as a result of scrabbling for affection and attention from her husband and squelching anybody that gets in her way. It was a very interesting portrayal of what ambition can lead to if it goes unchecked. Nefertiti's life was both amazing and also pitiful.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Mutny and Nefertiti were still young girls and they arrived at the Pharaoh's palace for the first time, amazed at all the beauty and luxury. The description of the palace grounds was very vivid.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Mutny was an interesting character foil to Nefertiti. Both Mutny and Nefertiti grew up as charming and beautiful young girls but Nefertiti because cold and power-hungry while Mutny remained sensible and kind. I like that even though Mutny didn't like to be involved in all the palace intrigue, she made herself stay so that she could be a silent support for her sister.