The Sekhmet Bed
In any novel, first and foremost, I need to be invested in the characters. If I can't find that investment, I cannot care about what happens. Reading becomes a chore.
After reading "The Sekhmet Bed," I began to understand this in a better way, because "The Sekhmet Bed" succeeded where, for me, other highly praised books have not. I became emotionally invested in the characters. "The Sekhmet Bed" offers us the princess, Ahmose, and her pharaoh, Thutmose, (whom I adored). Then we get the nasty sister, Mutnofret, and Ineni, the lover. Even Ironside's secondary characters, like Aiya, Twomose and Sitre-In became real, fully-fleshed out. I would pick up "The Sekhmet Bed" intending to read for only a moment, because a moment was all I had at the time. Fifteen minutes, twenty minutes, a half hour later, I would still be reading, even though I felt antsy because I had other things I needed to be doing. I could not stop reading. I had to know what happened next. I had to know what was on that next page.
For this reader, that is the mark of a successful novel.
Many of the scenes in "The Sekhmet Bed" clearly show how fragile life was in ancient Egypt, even though in some ways, they lived very comfortable, modern lives. Still, the wound caused by an animal bite could fester, and they had no way to stop it. There was danger all around, not only from invading tribes but crocodiles, snakes, and childbirth. Throughout everything runs the gods, their ultimate control, and the need to appease them.
I loved how vividly the author shows the power of women in this culture. I learned so much from this book: about ancient Egypt, and about the possible birth, childhood and subsequent power of Hatshepsut, the famed woman who ruled as pharaoh. I loved how the names of the children, even the Pharaoh's offspring, were chosen by their mothers. Although the book never ever fails for a single moment in its storytelling ability or in its beautiful voice or in the deep, vibrant connection between character and reader, it still managed to convey a tremendously visual, real, easy-to-identify-with culture and society.
I absolutely loved the full-circle progression of the complex relationship between Ahmose and Mutnofret. I don't believe I have ever read a book where I disliked a character so much, and by the end of the book I loved her and felt intimately connected to her.