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The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut's Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  2,699 Ratings  ·  574 Reviews
An engrossing biography of the longest-reigning female pharaoh in Ancient Egypt and the story of her audacious rise to power in a man’s world.

Hatshepsut, the daughter of a general who took Egypt's throne without status as a king’s son and a mother with ties to the previous dynasty, was born into a privileged position of the royal household. Married to her brother, she was
Hardcover, 298 pages
Published October 14th 2014 by Crown Publishing
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Jessica Dr. Cooney was one of my professors at UCLA. She taught a course on Women and Power in the Ancient World and was so articulate and passionate about…moreDr. Cooney was one of my professors at UCLA. She taught a course on Women and Power in the Ancient World and was so articulate and passionate about the subject that as soon as I learned she was writing a book, it went on my to-read list. (less)

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Sep 24, 2014 rated it really liked it

Full disclosure: I requested an ARC of this book and was approved for it.

I’m an Egyptologist, so it’ll be no surprise if I reveal that I have been quite eager to get my hands on this book. The author is not a new name to me – in fact I reviewed her tv series a few years back (I’d recommend it to beginners wholeheartedly, though it didn’t really offer anything new to me) – and a new biography of Hatshepsut is definitely a cause for excitement. The last Hatshepsut biography I’ve seen was Joyce Tyl
Disclaimer: ARC via the publisher and Netgalley.

When you think of an Egyptian female ruler, who do you think of?

If the answer is Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, Dr. Kara Cooney wants to talk to you.

I have to admit that Dr. Cooney annoyed me a bit in the introduction. I swear if I saw the phrase “twenty-two years of experience” again I was going to smack someone. (I was reading this on my Kindle, so I couldn’t throw it).

But after reading this excellent book, I can see why she might feel that s
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin


I had no idea Hatshepsut was a KING! That is just so cool! She was the first woman to have a long term as a King! I know I shouldn't say this in a review, but I used to always say I want to be King and my friends would say don't you mean Queen and I'm like.. no... KING! So this is really cool to find out. See what all you find out when you read just about everything out there!

Some of the things went over my head a little in the book. And the author wrote a lo
Anna C
Jul 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Next year, Hilary Mantel will publish the eagerly awaited final volume in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy. Like the other two, this will win a Man Booker Prize. The night of her big award, Hilary will relax in her fluffy armchair under the wise gaze of three golden trophies on her mantle (Do they do that? Or is that just for Oscars?). Hilary will immediately start to fret and ask herself "oh dear, what will I write next?" That night, she will pick up this book. The next morning, her publisher will a ...more
Sep 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Kara Cooney is a professor of Egyptian art and architecture. As such, her treatise on the life and rule of Hatshepsut is quite academic. From the description, I was expecting a more fictionalized tale, written as a story instead of a chronological account of the period and the monarch riddled with footnotes. Also, since much of the minutiae of Hatshepsut's life is not known, possibilities of what might have happened are strewn throughout. The myriad sentences and passages beginning with words an ...more
Stefan Bach
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Hatšepsut .

Kada pomislite na žene vladare drevnog Egipta siguran sam da mali broj ljudi pomisli na to ime.
Štaviše, siguran sam da će ljudi pre pomisliti na Kleopatru.
Iz perioda starog Rima.
Po mogućstvu u ulozi Elizabet Tejlor ili Anđeline Džoli iz onog njenog (hvala Bogu) neostvarenog (još jednog) projekta o ovoj vladarki.

Iako bi se neko možda složio kako Kleopatra i zaslužuje da bude naširoko hvaljena i spominjana i van filmskih, serijskih ili bilo kojih drugih mainstream okvira, ka
My number one complaint about The Woman Who Would Be King is the writing style choice of the author's. The writing was more suited for historical fiction but included biographical moments as well. Ultimately the author needed to decide if she wanted to write HF or NF, sadly she chose to mix the two and it does not mix. Overall I would not say this classifies as a biography, at least not a true one.

Although my number one complaint is the author's writing style choice, it is followed very closely
To sum up this book in one sentence: Hatshepsut was a badass. No, seriously. From a disturbingly young age, she was considered the wife of the god Amun, which involved daily ceremonies in which she had to give handjobs to a statue with a huge boner (in the words of Buffy Summers, "Note to self: religion freaky"). Then around the time she hit puberty, she was married off to her brother, because that was how Ancient Egypt rolled. She failed to produce a son (or at least a son that lived), and then ...more
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Hatshepsut (Reign c. 1479-1458 BC - 18th Dynasty) was a daughter of a general who took Egypt's throne in 1478 BC without status or right as a son of any king whatsoever so her road to power was lengthy and quite extraordinary, the lady was a fighter, a voice of power coming through a female that actually wanted well being for all. Her previous ties to a royal household were probably of help but she still had to marry her brother, and was of course expected to bear sons, her life resembled a Game ...more
BAM The Bibliomaniac
Maybe a 3? Pushing it
Much of this is based on conjecture
Sorry this was audio so I can't spell any names to save my life, but most of what is described of her reign is based on generalities except for her great architectural blessings. Did not realize the ancient Egyptians were such a sexually based society so if you listen to this book you may wish to watch your company.
Paul Franco
Aug 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: archaeology
First disclaimer: I was given an advanced copy, though not the final proof, with the understanding that I would give an honest review; insulted they even have to ask, but okay.
Second disclaimer (Ha, weren’t expecting that one, were ya?): I know the author, and have listened to her lectures about half a dozen times, plus I have her entire Discovery Channel series on my tablet. I frequently refer to her as a giggly teenager with a giant brain, at least in person, and to a smaller extent in her lec
Oct 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gcac-2015
An excellent biography of Hatshepsut of Ancient Egypt. I have heard of her, of course, as I am a big fan of archaeology and egyptology. But this book brings so much more to the story. For instance, did you know that if a woman can't give birth to a daughter, she isn't blamed? The Egyptians believed she was just a vessel, that all the responsibility was the man's?

The story follows her entire life and the family history that led to her reign. I highly recommend this immensely readable story.
Sue Rice
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating history of a woman who ruled Egypt as king for 20 odd years. I only wish I had read this BEFORE going to Egypt.
Aug 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
I received this book as an eArc from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

As a lover of history, I was excited to receive this book; the fact that it deals with the life of only the second, mostly little known Female Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, Hatshepsut was a big plus. As many who have reviewed The Woman Who Would be King have attested, Cleopatra is the main character that comes to mind when the issue of female rulers of Egypt are discussed. But Cleopatra was actually of the Greek Ptolemaic
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The best line is probably the last one in this book and goes something like this, "Why is it that the failures of female rulers are forever remembered in our society, such as Cleopatra, but the successes, like Hatshepsut, are forgotten and erased?"

This book goes into great detail, covering the history leading up to Hatshepsut's 22 year long reign and what happens after her death. However, since there are so many questions left unanswered about her, a lot of the book repeats itself. If you read o
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The “story” of Hatshepsut. Very little is known about the woman who ruled Egypt for 22 years. Why? Because the boy king, son of her half-brother and husband, was so very young when he ascended the throne. Hatshepsut made her way as his guide as was often the case of mothers when the king was too young to rule himself. Eventually, Hatshepsut would rule with him when he came of age and would transform her figure to one of a more masculine image to adapt to Egypt’s norms. She would build some of th ...more
Balle  Millner (Blogger, Freelance Writer, Aspiring Autho
“Male leaders are celebrated for their successes, while their excesses are typically excused as the necessary and expected price of masculine ambition.” – Kara Cooney, The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt

Click below for the review.
Whitney Milam
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: egypt
"Through all of antiquity, history records only one female ruler who successfully negotiated a systematic rise to power - without assassinations or coups - during a time of peace, who formally labeled herself with the highest position known in government, and who ruled for a significant stretch of time: Hatshepsut."
Hatshepsut was the first woman to exercise long-term rule over Egypt as a king

Hatshepsut was one of the few ancient females to rule her people, and with a reign that spanned 2 decades she was definitely the longest ruling. Born to a Pharaoh, she knew from a young age that she was destined for greatness. When a turn of events landed her as regent for a toddler king, she used this position to her advantage and became a female king of one of the greatest ancient nations.

This was one of those bio
Kirsten Rodning
According to the cover of the book, Time magazine said that it is "Engrossing and compulsively readable." I tend to take such promotional statements with a grain of salt, but somehow I find myself agreeing this time. Kara Cooney is one of the rare academics who is able to write a whole book without being overly dry. Cooney tries to add a bit of a fiction-like tone to the book from time to time (usually at the beginning of chapters), but always cedes to her academic standing and ends up writing, ...more
Apr 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
I first came across Kathlyn M. Cooney (aka Kara Cooney) in a fascinating recorded lecture on YouTube. Cooney is an Egyptologist who specializes in social history, something difficult to get at when studying an ancient civilization (who said again that The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there? -- one of the wiser sayings....) In the lecture, Cooney was reporting on an ambitious study she has undertaken of coffin re-use in ancient Egypt in the 20th and 21st dynasties - who d ...more
Stephanie Marie
Nov 02, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: grad-schoolery
This book was both the bane of my existence and a decently pleasurable read. Let me explain:

I started this book as part of the Women's Lives Club, a fun Twitter book club that I jumped into enthusiastically and slowly faded out of. The fade was because of Hatshepsut-- I didn't finish this book in the month we were set to read it and instead of putting it aside to move forward in my reading life, I stubbornly vowed to complete it before I turned to a new book.

You know where this story goes: beca
Sep 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Copy provided by GoodReads First Reads program.

While ambitious and full of heart, The Woman Who Would Be King is not the book that I thought it would be.

Much of the book is spent in speculative history, which is not surprising, but does make the book have more guesses than hard facts. I don't especially take points off of an author for this, but I felt that quite a bit of the book was imagining what Hatshepsut's life MIGHT have been like and not what is WAS like.

Due to the scant evidence of wh
Rosemarie Donzanti
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I would rate this book 3.5. 4.0 for the portrayal of a strong, successful female king who pushed herself and others extremely hard and embodied all the qualities of her successful Father, Thutmose I. She was wife to a weak, sickly king, then co-king with Thutmose III who she mentored and groomed from the time he was a toddler. I found Hatshepsut's life and rise to power fascinating however, I give the writing style a 3.0. Very repetitive, it was filled with much assumption and doubt. At times I ...more
Jul 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
I am only giving this 2 stars, even though I find the story of Hatshepsut quite fascinating. I listened to this as an audio book, so maybe I could have bumped it up a star had I read it instead?

Honestly, I could not possibly come up with the amount of times the author used "perhaps", "maybe", "might have", "likely", etc. I know that she began with saying that she was taking liberties, however, 'perhaps' fewer liberties would have made it a better book.

The repetition also drove me crazy. There ar
Ronald Lett
Oct 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Although a tiny bit repetitive in some places, this is an eye-opening account of, not just Hatshepsut's rise to power, but life in ancient Egypt during her reign. Sadly, the circumstances and environment surrounding Hatshepsut's rise to power and the things she had to do to maintain that power (and the inevitable erasure of her kingship when the weight of the civilization dynasty moved her extremely successful leadership back to the usual mediocre patriarchal lineage) would be familiar to anyone ...more
Ryan Helton
Oct 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Engrossing and thought provoking. Hatshepsut came alive with Dr. Cooney's telling. Though much was inferred, it was done so with grace and deep knowledge of her subjects. BRAVO!!!
Sep 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book to read as it provides a great, well-rounded understanding of Hatshepsut's life. It begins with her ancestry and a royal lineage that was plagued with worry over their struggle to produce a male heir, a dilemma quite incredible to our modern minds as the king had a duty to procreate with his harem of wives every night of his rule. Nevertheless, genetic weaknesses due to inbreeding (although this would not be the case for Hatshepsut's father) and the susceptibility to mu ...more
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, crime
Champagne in a paper cup.
Reviewing this (audio) book presents a real dilemma for me. While I'm not an Egyptologist or even an historian...I try not to be that long-winded...I am fascinated by ancient and classical history and have tried to learn as much about those times, and places, as I can. Ancient Egypt is perhaps the most interesting, and the stories of Hatshepsut (still hard for me to pronounce), her reign and her ambitious building program both at Karnak and Deir el Bahri are riveting. Th
This was an excellent, detailed biography of one of Egypt's most influential female rulers, Hatshepsut. Although she was the first example of definitive feminine power in the ancient world, she is much less well-known than Cleopatra VII, so I was excited to see a full-length biography of Hatshepsut. She was known both as a Queen of Egypt (the King's Great Wife), married to Thutmose II, and also as a self-styled King of Egypt.

Not a lot is known for sure about the life of Hatshepsut, but Kara Coon
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Play Book Tag: The Woman Who Would Be King/Kara Cooney/4.25 Stars 7 23 Apr 04, 2018 03:23PM  
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Dr. Kathlyn M. Cooneyaka Dr. Kara Cooney is an Egyptologist and Assistant Professor of Egyptian Art and Architecture at UCLA. She was awarded a PhD in 2002 by Johns Hopkins University for Near Eastern Studies. She was part of an archaeological team excavating at the artisans' village of Deir el Medina in Egypt, as well as Dahshur and various tombs at Thebes.

In 2002 she was Kress Fellow at the Nati
More about Kara Cooney

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“Male leaders are celebrated for their successes, while their excesses are typically excused as the necessary and expected price of masculine ambition.” 3 likes
“In a world where seasons of planting harvests and inundation ruled life and death, it was imperative to bring the gods into daily life to help things along. The more a king invested in festivals of cyclical renewal, the more prosperity the gods bestowed. But if the gods were ignored, bad floods would result, and that meant meager planting and poor harvest, which led in turn to drought, pestilence, disease and death.” 0 likes
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