Sovereign of Stars, the next instalment in L. M. Ironside's She-King series, is an utterly fantastic read. It is engaging, but still offers a seemingl...moreSovereign of Stars, the next instalment in L. M. Ironside's She-King series, is an utterly fantastic read. It is engaging, but still offers a seemingly authentic Ancient Egypt and populated with complex characters with complex relationships. Following on from the previous instalments in the She-King series (The Sekhmet Bed, The Crook and Flail),Sovereign of Stars tells the story of Hatshepsut – Egypt's most renowned female pharaoh – during her years as king.
Good news everyone: you're not going to have to listen to me complain and rant about how Ironside handled Hatshepsut's relationship with Thutmose III. Far too often in fiction about Hatshepsut, this relationship is depicted as bitter rivals with one thrown into the role of irredeemable villain and the other as the wronged, but rightful king. Instead, Ironside gives their relationship a depth rarely seen, depicting their bond as a mother-and-son bond. There are times when Hatshepsut and Thutmose clash, yes, but it's done in a believable way, a natural progression of their characters and their relationship. This is so rare in Hatshepsut fiction that I was tempted to give Sovereign of Stars five stars solely for that effort.
But Sovereign of Stars earned that five-star rating in other ways. Once more, Ironside's depiction of Ancient Egypt feels realistic and authentic. It's very rare that this feat is pulled off in Ancient Egyptian historicals, yet Ironside's Egypt feels so natural and real that it's simply extraordinary. This is not only true for the setting, but also the people who populate it.
Ironside's characters are rich and detailed, given flaws. I loved that despite Hatshepsut being the daughter of the god Amun, was still given flaws – she's paranoid and prideful to the point of arrogance, neglectful of her daughter and more. I liked that Thutmose III was not just reduced to a war-hungry wannabe-soldier as he so often is, that Neferure was unlikeable, but also sympathetic.
Neferure's relationship with her mother, Hatshepsut, was a roller-coaster of a ride, multifaceted and difficult. Neferure is a slippery figure in Egyptian history, with no one knowing quite what happened to her or the roles she played in Hatshepsut's court. Ironside's choices may be controversial, but they make for such an interesting story that I, personally, can more than live with. I enjoyed that Neferure's fate was left up in the air, though part of me longs for retribution.
In all honesty, if I hadn't read the historical notes beforehand, I wouldn't have noticed that Ironside did set a few events earlier in time. But knowing, I didn't mind this, especially as Ironside did explain in the notes why she did it, and these changes do propel the story forward. I did take more issue with the decision to send Hatshepsut to Punt.
I accept that there's a very slim possibility that Hatshepsut travel to Punt with during the famous expedition there in her reign. But, like I said, it's a very slim possibility, more along the lines of "well, we don't have any evidence that she did, but we have nothing explicitly stating that she didn't" and I didn't feel the story really justified the change from history. I understand why it's tempting for any author writing about Punt to try and find a way around the fact that Hatshepsut (in all likelihood) didn't travel to Punt.
The Punt expedition is a pretty big deal, especially when we talk about Hatshepsut, but if you play it by the book, you have to deal with the fact that Hatshepsut is pretty much an observer and bystander, having a hand in the decision and the planning, but then only witnessing the departure and the triumphant return. But, while I'm glad that Ironside was able to give us a vivid recreation of Punt and introduce us to Ati, I didn't really feel like Hatshepsut's journey to Punt added much to the story, except to allow Thutmose and Neferure to act out while Hatshepsut was away and to foreshadow the disasters to come for Hatshepsut.
Despite this small niggle, Sovereign of Stars is completely brilliant, a sheer joy to read. I am little saddened that this seems to mark the end of Hatshepsut's story, but I look eagerly forward to reading The Bull of Min next year. (less)
I still don't think this series is a truly spectacular read, but I'm happy to report that City of Angels did not annoy me anywhere as much as the prev...moreI still don't think this series is a truly spectacular read, but I'm happy to report that City of Angels did not annoy me anywhere as much as the previous books. (less)
I liked this one better than the first two volumes. That said, I had a few nitpicks
1. All. The. Damn. Relationship. Drama. By which I might the const...moreI liked this one better than the first two volumes. That said, I had a few nitpicks
1. All. The. Damn. Relationship. Drama. By which I might the constant arguing between Jace and Clary. Dear god, I wanted to bang their heads together and make them a) listen to each other and b) explain everything.
2. Clary being rash, totally channelling Jim Kirk in this gif set and having it backfire on her. (view spoiler)[Like: everyone is telling her that they can't just pop over there, so she makes her own portal, nearly kills herself, forces Luke into breaking a law that could have him killed, and then complains when he leaves her to save his own life. OMG, I'm sorry Luke abandoned YOU, the fact he's just trying to STAY ALIVE clearly means NOTHING. (hide spoiler)]
I have a feeling there was a third point, but I can't remember it. Oh well.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Still a great guilty pleasure of mine, though I found that clunky writing and some basic characterisations let City of Ashes down more than it did Cit...moreStill a great guilty pleasure of mine, though I found that clunky writing and some basic characterisations let City of Ashes down more than it did City of Bones. I found the character of Jace felt less try-hardy, though that might be because Clare allows readers to see through his eyes more. Still: City of Ashes is still pretty fun and exciting.(less)