I’m on a Princess kick – so I decided to try out Sphinx’s Princess & Sphinx’s Queen by Esther M. Friesner. I had read her Nobody’s Princess / Nobody’s Prize books a while ago and enjoyed them, so I was looking forward to these.
I like historical fiction though haven’t ever really been terribly interested in ancient Egypt beyond appreciating the exhibits at the museum. These books really brought that time to life for me. I have also read “Nefertiti” by Michelle Moran, another adaptation of the Nefertiti legend/history written from the perspective of Nefertiti’s sister, Mutnodjmet. I actually didn’t like the character of Nefertiti at all in that story, whereas I love both girls in Sphinx’s Princess. I think I might have enjoyed Sphinx’s Princess even more had I NOT read Michelle Moran’s book first!
Okay, I might have to do a little comparison here. Bear in mind that I haven’t read Nefertiti by Michelle Moran in a while. In that, Nefertiti is a beautiful, proud girl who ultimately uses her charisma to gain power – including power over her sister. The story is more a description of a sister’s complex relationship – a bond that demands much sacrifice on the part of Mutnodjmet. Nefertiti’s husband, Amunhotep, is depicted as unstable and radical – trying to overthrow the priests of Amun and worship instead a new sun god. It is as if the gods are angry and the plague and political unrest that follow change things for both women. Nefertiti, in her quest for power, takes advantage of Mutnodjmet and I could never quite forgive her for what she puts Mutnodjmet through.
Contrast this sharply with the depiction of the sister’s in Sphinx’s Princess. Nefertiti is instead the main character – strong, intelligent, passionate, and beautiful. She thrives in learning and loves her sister dearly. Nefertiti’s ambitious Aunt, who happens to be the Pharoh’s wife, Queen Tiye, pulls Nefertiti from her home and family and brings her to Thebes. There, she must battle loneliness and intrigue, and find some true friends as she avoids falling completely into Tiye’s clutches and her cousin’s hands.
The first book ends with a not-quite cliffhanger (but enough of a “what will happen???” to ensure that I would recommend reading these two books together), and it took me a few days until I had time to pick up Sphinx’s Queen. I had none of the qualms of the first book’s comparison, and found that by the second one I loved all the main characters (Nefertiti, Nava, Amenophis), well not all (Tiye, Thutmose). The story took a totally different turn than Michelle Moran’s book, one I very much appreciated. Themes of courage, integrity, honesty, and forgiveness were prominent in Sphinx’s Queen and rather than being moralizing they were refreshing. In this second book, Nefertiti must make it to the Pharaoh to reveal the truth. On the way, she must face an array of dangers, from wildlife to unsavory people. She also must realize where her heart lies.
I couldn’t put this book down. It was fast-paced and exciting. I really admired Nefertiti for her integrity. She was the ultimate strong female character. I cheered her on the whole way!
I would rate both Sphinx’s Princess and Sphinx’s Queen as 4 /5 each. Great books!!