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

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  5,805 ratings  ·  744 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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Jess 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 th…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)
Courtney It is written as a novel, and while it is very much true, parts (which she specifies) had to be imagined as there are no surviving artifacts to be sur…moreIt is written as a novel, and while it is very much true, parts (which she specifies) had to be imagined as there are no surviving artifacts to be sure. It's a great book! (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
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
I just read Cooney’s most recent book “When Women Ruled the World”. I was impressed enough to hunt down other of Cooney’s publications. I found this one about the life of Hatshepsut.

Hatshepsut ruled Egypt as Pharaoh approximately 3500 years ago. She reigned for twenty-two years. Apparently, Hatshepsut was the High Priestess of Egypt prior to taking the throne. According to Cooney she did no wrong and Egypt thrived under her reign. She built strong trade agreements, expanded the Empire and lost n
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
Oct 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
BAM Endlessly Booked
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
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.
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
Jul 13, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, politics
Read it for a book club. I didn't like the author's writing style. Although the series of events were confusing in real life, I don't think the author explained it very well. ...more
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
Hatshepsut has fascinated me since I took an Egyptian history elective in college, but this biography left me disappointed.

The scholarship here is laughable: every phrase is couched with "possibly," "perhaps," "maybe," "might have," "probably," and on and on. Of course, author Kara Cooney has not chosen an easy subject. Hatshepsut lived more than 3500 years ago in a culture we can scarcely understand. She left a trail of incomplete records that Cooney painstakingly pieces together, buttressed by
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 b
Nov 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
I am not a fan of what I think is a disturbing new trend in 'nonfiction' writing: suppositions that are written as fact to give the book a narrative structure more like fiction (I assume that's the goal). At least this author had the decency to honestly admit what she was going to do in her introduction, but I still disapprove. Obviously, there are a lot of details that we don't know about the Egyptians, including their emotions and mindsets at various points in their lives. Any intelligent read ...more
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
Sep 06, 2014 rated it really liked it

Ok I received this book as a part of a goodreads giveaway. (Boy am I happy I got it!!)

I seen this as a history lesson on a very Important woman that no one really knows about BUT SHOULD!!!!
She not only pushed aside gender issues and took the throne, Or wisely say back and learned everything she could to became the best, oh no like all great women she was so much ahead of her time others who where stuck in the mud were happy to erase her...
But this author gives n
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.
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
"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." ...more
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
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
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
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 was it that said The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there?) 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 did it, why, and the moral impli ...more
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
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
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Dr. Kathlyn M. Cooney aka 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 Nat

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