Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Heretic Queen

Today was a good day to start this blog, because today I finished a new book: The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran.  This is a sequel to another one of Ms. Moran's books I read recently, Nefertiti.  Moran has become one of my favorite historical fiction authors; I discovered her in an interview done by the great Sharon K. Penman on SKP's blog.  (More on SKP later, believe me.)  I enjoy her because she is a good storyteller, she develops her individual characters well, and she appears to be a meticulous researcher when it comes to her books.  (I am a snob when it comes to historical fiction.  If it isn't as historically accurate as possible, I don't bother.) 

The Heretic Queen follows the story of Nefertari, queen to Ramsses II of Egypt, who is thought to be the Pharoah associated with the exodus of the Hebrews of the Old Testament.  The blurb on the back of the book seems to indicate that the exodus will play a role in this book; don't be fooled by that.  (Who writes those things, anyway?  It isn't the authors, I'll tell you that.)  The exodus sort of makes an appearance in a backdoor sort of way, but it is in no way a major plot point.  Instead, the story follows Nefertari's coming-of-age from child of the palace to queen of all Egypt.   Court intrigue, lies, murder, and love follow. 

As I mentioned, I enjoy how Ms. Moran develops her characters.  Each one is unique, and they don't necessarily stay the same all the way though the story.  She manages to write so that sometimes you realize more of what is going on before Nefertari does.  You see the story through Nefertari's eyes, but you also see a panorama of court life, soaking in what life may have been like in that time and place.  The story moves along quickly and keeps the reader interested.  It's a period of history about which there is not much information left, but Moran does the best she can with the research available, brilliantly filling the gaps by weaving together fact and fiction.  It's a beautiful love story set against one of the most enigmatic yet intriguing periods of history. 

One piece that may bother Christian readers is the character of Ahmoses, who is (very) loosely based on the Biblical Moses of the Book of Exodus.  When reading these passages, I would challenge the reader to remember that this is a work of fiction and not meant to make one theological point or another.  The exodus is a controversial event in history, and Moran is here to tell a story, not rewrite history.  Her version on what may or may not have happened to a group of people called the Habiru that may or may not have been associated with the Hebrews of Exodus is just that - a version.  A story.  Take it for what it is and use the perspective to allow God to show you other sides of the Exodus story.  I do not for one moment believe anything else that what is in the Book of Exodus.  That is the standard for me, as is all historical events related in the Bible.  I don't mean to take away from what I believe God has passed down from generation to generation as the truth.  However, through the reading of other perspectives, I find the the Lord strengthens my own beliefs about the history of the world while giving me the unique view of others.  I challenge others to allow God to do similar things through their own reading.

Overall, The Heretic Queen is an enjoyable read.  One sexual scene, and some violence, so I would recommend it for teenaged readers and up.  It's a fast, fun read, not going to break you intellectually, but gives a fun look into the past.

Scale of 1-5: 3.5
What's up next: Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell
Top Five TBR:
1. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert
2. To Defy a King by Elizabeth Chadwick
3. Hearing God by Dallas Willard
4. Cleaved by Julie Powell
5. Cleopatra: A life by Stacy Schiff

Quote for the day: "A room without books is like a body without a soul." - Gilbert K. Chesterton

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