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Mara, Daughter of the Nile

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  7,671 Ratings  ·  642 Reviews
Mara is a proud and beautiful slave girl who yearns for freedom. In order to gain it, she finds herself playing the dangerous role of double spy for two arch enemies - each of whom supports a contender for the throne of Egypt.

Against her will, Mara finds herself falling in love with one of her masters, the noble Sheftu, and she starts to believe in his plans of restoring T
Paperback, 279 pages
Published October 1st 1985 by Puffin Books (first published 1953)
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MzDallas Pre-teen to mid-teen, because of the political intrigue. I remember how much I liked it.
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Savannah Khofra is the leader/trainer of the army that Sheftu needs for the rebellion (in order to overthrow the queen). Does that make sense?

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Khanh (the Grinch)
"Then the stars went out, for the bark of Ra, in fiery splendor, burst out of the East. Sunshine flooded the wide desert and the long, green valley of the Nile. The night was over; a new day has dawned for the land of Egypt."
Generally, I do not reread books. I have a short attention span, I constantly seek novelty, and once a book or a film has been watched, even if I greatly enjoyed it, I will never reach for it again. There are only a few books that I enjoy rereading, Mara, Daughter of the N
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
This holds up pretty darn well for a 60 year old YA book. Set in ancient Egypt, it's the story of a bright, feisty slave girl who unexpectedly finds herself a double spy for both sides of a conflict over the throne of Egypt. Either side is likely to immediately kill her if her duplicity is discovered. And then her heart starts to get involved . . .

I had very fond memories of reading Mara years ago, and I was delighted and, frankly, relieved when my recent re-read lived up to my memories, which i
Mar 21, 2007 Kate rated it it was amazing
Shelves: youth-lit, favorites
I am going to open up my heart to you guys. I read this book when I was, oh, maybe 7 or 8, and it was my favorite book for YEARS. I re-read it countless times. It was the only book from my childhood I brought with me to college. It may have been, in large part, the reason my mom once bought me a t-shirt that said "Kathleen" in - wait for it -HIEROGLYPHICS.

I have no idea if this is actually a good book or not. I loved it so much as a kid that I couldn't possibly give an impartial opinion even now
Oct 19, 2013 Willow rated it really liked it
Shelves: egypt
Thanks for the buddy read, Jeannette! :D

Mara Daughter of the Nile was originally published back in 1953, and I find that books that were written during that time, always make me think of old movies. It’s the way the characters talk and interact with each other. The hero doesn’t just kiss the heroine. He pulls her into his arms and gives her a grand sweeping kiss that should have music playing in the background. Now don’t get me wrong, I happen to love this because I think it’s breathlessly roman
Mara intently fixed her gaze on the young man before her, who asked, "What is the message, Blue Eyed One?"

"'What are your thoughts?'" she quoted. "'Shall you tell me of the plot? Have you found the writings favorable?'"

Sheftu, with a casual smile that was yet guarded, replied, "Are those his words, or yours?"

"By the Feather of Truth, I only quoted them exactly."

"From your thoughts, no doubt."

Ai, he knows, but I will not let him best me, thought Mara. I will get the truth of him.... "Is this book
Feb 24, 2008 Sophia rated it liked it
Shelves: ya, own, 2008, reread
I loved this in junior high and dug it out again for a "light" read -- it's actually more intense than I remembered, but still fun. For being written in 1953, Mara is a surprisingly strong female character, a slave-turned-spy for two opposing masters. She's smart, quick on her feet, speaks Babylonian, plays both sides, and even stands up under torture. The romance novel aspects are the least interesting elements, not because they're particularly silly but just because McGraw's beautiful descript ...more
Gail Carriger
Nov 19, 2009 Gail Carriger rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: young adults
Shelves: favorites, ya
I adored this book when I first read it at age 10, and still love it 20 years later. I cannot recommend it highly enough to young lady readers who have any interest at all in Ancient Egypt.

Mara is a slave girl sold to become a spy who ends up embroiled in a plot to overthrow the (female) Pharaoh Hatshepsut. McGraw's attention to detail and knowledge of the time are impeccable, her characters are alive and engaging, there's a nice little romance, plenty of drama and suffering for the cause, and
Nov 14, 2013 Tweety rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All people, you won't regret it
Recommended to Tweety by: Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
I'll not write a long review since others have already said everything there is to be said, but I will say that I can't believe how beautiful this was. I wish I could read it all over again. Five Stars easy, it was a million times better than my last book.

Mara was a delight, she was a sweet little trickster who didn't know which people to side with. Whichever side she chose to spy for, there was danger and intrigue. From robing the dead in their crypts' to appearing before Pharaoh, Mara gets ent
May 16, 2015 Schuyler rated it really liked it
Mara is one of those books that is pure fun to read. All the time you're reading, you're thinking "this is a good story--a lifetime story--this is why I love books". It's spy fiction at its tightest, with tiny clues and grand stakes that all weave together into the delicious combination of suspense that I like to experience. This book has everything from midnight meets to tomb robbing (and breaking the royal seals on the tombs was no joke for an Egyptian).

The characterization gives food for thou
Jackie B. Forman
Let's hear it for strong female protagonists found in books published in 1953!

Also, let's hear it for being able to describe any book in this way: Spies! Intrigue! Plotting! Romance! Gold! Pharoahs! Swashbuckling! Betrayal! Anguish! Drama!

What a captivating story.

Now, first things first. The history isn't quite accurate. But, that's okay. This is historical fiction, right? As long as you can ignore the real events, this is a great story. That said-- truth, or lack there of, does not take away f
May 16, 2014 Hana rated it really liked it
This was great fun and a smooth, easy read--in fact I fairly tore through this one and could not wait to find out what happened.

McGraw knows how to keep the plot moving and her heroine, Mara the slave girl, is spunky, intelligent and conniving enough to be plausible in her new role as a double agent in the royal court. I'm far from being an Egyptologist, but I've traveled to Egypt and spent enough time in the Egyptian galleries of various museums to know that McGraw gets all sorts of little deta
Anne Osterlund
Apr 17, 2009 Anne Osterlund rated it it was amazing
Mara is a slave girl in Ancient Egypt. Determined to change her fortune and be free. No matter what it takes. When a messenger from Queen Hatshepsut purchases Mara and makes her an offer to spy and act the part of a royal interpreter, our heroine sees her chance.

But then Sheftu, a scribe who is not a scribe, decides he has a hold over her as well and hires her to spy for the King Thutmos III instead. Which Mara realizes is also a chance.

And all these chances add up to . . . something very much o
Great story! Engaging heroine, smart and plucky without being overly sassy and a hero I am absolutely in love with. I love a ruthless, driven, obsessed man that DOES NOT want to be distracted by a pretty girl. There's just something so sweet about watching the poor guy struggle with his feelings.

The setting was superb, and since I haven't read a lot of Egyptian anything it was new and refreshing. The secondary characters were fleshed out, interesting and unique. The plot was right up my alley,
Aug 14, 2012 Elevetha rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Pretty much anyone
Recommended to Elevetha by: Miss Clark
This was an awesome book. Not sure what I was expecting but this a lot.

And was it really my fault that I was imagining the awesome river boat father figure guy that, sadly, I can't remember the name of, as Sam Axe? I think not.

Highly recommended to all.
May 19, 2015 Suzannah rated it really liked it
I am embarrassed to admit how much I love this book.
May 17, 2012 Shantelle rated it really liked it
Mara, Daughter of the Nile was a superb novel. I was surprised and delighted by the depth of the story, the crazy awesomeness of the plot, and... yes, the entire book in and of itself.

A richly historical book to be sure. We explore Egypt and her culture, customs, kings and queens. Of course, this historical depth includes mentions of gods and goddesses, and also a slightly creepy scene down in the tombs of Egypt's dead kings. That I could have done without.

But yes, the overall story was just ver
Sherwood Smith
Jan 28, 2011 Sherwood Smith rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical-novel
I think this was the first book that turned me on to historical fiction. I checked it out over and over.
Nov 04, 2013 Hannah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: romance
This book is a lot of fun. I would particularly recommend it to tween/teen girls. It's exactly the sort of romantic adventure I would have loved to death at that age. I still love it now, but that's because there's a little tween girl still living inside of me--a little tween girl who would have been frightened and thrilled by the action and more than a little intrigued by the dashing hero, Sheftu. He's totally the guy young girls dream of having an adventure with.
You can tell the book was writ
Feb 17, 2017 Gina rated it liked it
Well, when my book group chose a YA historical fiction novel set in ancient Egypt written in 1953 I had really, really low expectations. But it was a fun read! It has a Disney-princess-esque heroine, spunky and beautiful and smart, who gets caught up in a web of political intrigue. The Egyptian stuff wasn't nearly as hokie as I expected, although they are inside a pyramid at one point. Anyway, it seems from Goodreads reviews that 10-12 year old girls are prone to fall in love with this book and ...more
Apr 28, 2009 Taylor rated it did not like it
Jul 11, 2015 Hayden rated it really liked it
Shelves: other-genre
I have a feeling this may end up being re-read in the future ;)
Mara, Daughter of the Nile is about a slave girl called Mara whose luck suddenly changes and she finds herself free from her loathsome master and on her way to adventure. She ends up as a double spy in Hatshepsut’s court and tries to play a lone hand in the drama that takes place.

To start off, this book is an excellent attempt at showcasing a fierce and independent girl who tries to get her own way, and succeeds. The first half of the book showing Mara’s journey from a despised slave, her strugg

Mara is a tough, gritty guttersnipe of a slave girl--with a dream of freedom and enough wealth to never endure hunger, dirt, whippings or psychological abuse again. Remarkable for her blue eyes, quick wit and saucy tongue, she is abruptly sold to an agent of Queen Hatshepsut--a female Pharaoh. Mara is to serve as an interpreter for a Babylonian-speaking princess (unwilling, unwanted, homesick). Actually Mara must be a spy because she will have freer access to t
Madhulika Liddle
Jun 10, 2015 Madhulika Liddle rated it really liked it
Ancient Egypt, in the time of the Pharaoh Hatshepsut, who has made a prisoner of her half-brother Thutmose and rules in his stead. A tyrannical megalomaniac, Hatshepsut is blind to the woes of her people, and possible dangers from enemies abroad—she is more interested in building grand temples to her glory. Unknown to her, however, a conspiracy is underway to topple Hatshepsut and restore Thutmose to his rightful place. Spearheading this conspiracy is one of Egypt’s richest men, Hatshepsut’s own ...more
Jul 09, 2013 Nikki rated it really liked it
Mara, Daughter of the Nile was an enjoyable read and overall I enjoyed McGraw's writing. However, I was a bit turned off by the very anti-Hatshepsut sentiment of the novel despite Mara being a double spy. I would have thought the novel would play both sides but instead it focused almost entirely on the anti-Hatshepsut camp and spy dealings. There really is little evidence as far as I am concerned to back up the villainous way in which Hatshepsut came across.

Our main character, Mara, is a strong
Dec 30, 2008 Danielle rated it it was amazing
I must have read this first in middle school - probably found it by snooping around the historical fiction section of my library. Goodness, I love this book - and this author. If you are a fan of historical fiction, or simply of good stories, you really should look into her other works.

As you can probably guess by the title, this work is set in ancient Egypt. I won't write a synopsis, but I will list a few of the things this book features in case you're considering giving it a try.

- Your typical
Jan 22, 2009 Daria rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical-fic
This was...this had of the greatest books of all time. I remember reading it in 6th grade, and fell in love with it head over heels. Great twisting, nail-biting suspense, and a beautiful ending (as was the SPOILER!!! torture scene. OK, so people may think me weird for finding torture scenes beautiful, but it was really well-written). The heroine is strongheaded, and absolutely relatable to. The romance is of the best kind - not too much, and yet almost not enough to satisfy the reader ...more
Oct 18, 2016 Alli rated it really liked it
I read this aloud to my 13 and 11 year olds during a study of Ancient Egypt. It is well researched and gave them a fine sense of life in Thebes. More valuable than the history, though, they gleaned from it a powerful story of a young slave's realization that loyalty, friendship, honor, and great courage are of more value to her than riches and freedom.

The story is suspenseful at the beginning and end, but it was slow through the middle third. Get through that middle part, it is worth the end. B
Miss Clark
Feb 27, 2010 Miss Clark rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Maria S.
Shelves: adventure, historical
Political intrigue, adventure, a touch of romance and plenty of danger, all set in ancient Egypt? What's not to like? I bit more time spent between Sheftu and Mara would have been appreciated, as well as more in-depth characterizations all around, but still fun. And I am definitely going to need to find The Witch of Blackbird Pond now.

The one weird thing was the sometimes very modern language that seemed out of place.
Mar 10, 2014 Rebecca added it
Shelves: read-in-2016
This was really charming. I didn't think I would be so interested, but I was easily sucked into the story. The quick pace really helped to keep my interest. Mara is wonderful to read about - she's so bold and unorthodox. Really liked Sheftu, he's that right combination of hard to read with glimpses into his thoughts that really hooks me. I'm a sucker for characters like him. And for political intrigue with spies. So, really fun book.
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Eloise Jarvis McGraw was an author of children's books. She was awarded the Newbery Honor three times in three different decades, for her novels Moccasin Trail (1952), The Golden Goblet (1962), and The Moorchild (1997). A Really Weird Summer (1977) won an Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery from the Mystery Writers of America. McGraw had a very strong interest in history, and among the many book ...more
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“...The queen's mocking laughter cut in. "This is your treasure, Lord Sheftu?"

"Aye. The greatest treasure in Egypt—a maid whose loyalty cannot be bought. Whatever bargain we make, Daughter of the Sun, must include her freedom.”
“You are both daring and unscrupulous, and you think fast. I have been looking for a person with those particular characteristics. Also I noticed you speak Babylonian.” 15 likes
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