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Mara, Daughter of the Nile

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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.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1953

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About the author

Eloise Jarvis McGraw

37 books270 followers
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 books she wrote for children are Greensleeves, Pharaoh, The Seventeenth Swap, and Mara, Daughter of the Nile.

McGraw also contributed to the Oz series started by L. Frank Baum, writing with her daughter Lauren Lynn McGraw (Wagner) Merry Go Round in Oz (the last of the Oz books issued by Baum's publisher) and The Forbidden Fountain of Oz, and later writing The Rundelstone of Oz on her own. The actual writing of the books was done entirely by Eloise; Lauren made story contributions significant enough for Eloise to assign her co-authorship credit.

She lived for many years in Portland, Oregon before dying in late 2000 of "complications of cancer".

McGraw was married to William Corbin McGraw, who died in 1999. They had two children, Peter and Lauren.


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,030 reviews
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
February 27, 2021
Mara, Daughter of the Nile holds up amazingly well for a 60+ year old YA book. Set in ancient Egypt, it's the story of Mara, a bright, feisty slave girl who unexpectedly finds herself forced to act as a 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 re-read lived up to my memories, which isn't always the case when I re-read favorite books from my teenage years. (*coughrobertheinleincough*) It's not a perfect book, but I'm upping my rating to five stars, dang it, just because I can, and because I so enjoyed Mara and her duel of wits with Sheftu. Sheftu is my favorite kind of book hero, an intelligent, extremely capable man hiding behind the mask of a charming, lazy courtier in order to achieve a greater goal. (I'm such a sucker for that Scarlet Pimpernel kind of trope.)
Tomorrow, by Amon, she would have revenge. She would treat him with a smiling indifference he wouldn't be able to break through no matter how hard he tried. She would be gay—aye, charming—but oh, how remote! . . .

Mara found Sheftu's manner the next morning just as gay, just as impersonal, and so much more convincing than her own that she was out of sorts before an hour had passed. There was no outdoing him at irony, that was clear. She would have to find some other means of punishing him.
But this is more than a simple adventure and love story; the book has some surprisingly profound ideas about living for a greater cause, the power of love for your country, and how a country is made up of people, the poor and humble as well as the rich and powerful—all of whom are important.

This one's a keeper and a total comfort read.
August 8, 2013
"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 Nile has been one I have reached for repeatedly since I first read it and fell in love with it as a 12-year old girl. A few years ago, I donated a enormous amount of books after reluctantly admitting to myself that I will never touch them again after the initial reading: this book still occupies a place on my currently tiny and trimmed-down collection of paperbacks, and it's going nowhere.

Call it nostalgia, if you will, but this is such a lovely little book, and it has occupied a dear space in my heart ever since. This is a solidly middle-grade novel, but I find that a great middle-grade novel is a wonderful thing. They are so essential to hook in a young reader and instill in them a love of reading that lasts a lifetime. These books have themes, they have believable, loveable, flawed characters. There's no psychoanalysis required of the characters, but they send such an important message to a young reader: you can be better than you think, you can be a good person, you can aim for higher than what you believe yourself capable. A small person can make a difference.

The story is simple, the plot is straightforward. There is no overwhelming theme here of existence, no aspirations to grandeur, yet I love it just the same. I do confess to being a great fan of Ancient Egypt. The mythology, the people, the history; while I have read many books within this setting, telling stories of such exalted characters as Cleopatra, Nefertiti, King Tutankhamen, this wee book remains my favorite in the sadly rare genre of Egyptian fiction.

Mara is a slave, she was not always one, but that has been her life for as long as she can remember. She is a foreign-born slave, captured with her late mother; Mara has blue eyes, which is reviled and feared by her master, and is different from most slaves in that she has been previously educated in reading and writing. She also has a more valuable commodity: the ability to speak Babylonian. It is for this purpose that Queen Hatshepsut's man initially buys her; she is to spy upon Prince Thutmose through his future bride. Mara is to play the interpreter for Princess the Canaanite princess, Inanni.

Through a twist of fate, Mara ends up playing the unwilling double agent, with none the wiser. She ends up being a pawn for Lord Sheftu, who is working secretly in support of placing Prince Thutmose on the throne in place of his devious, destructive pharaoh sister, Queen Hatshepsut.

Mara has no choice. She cannot reveal her role to either. To do so would be to risk death, truly, for the life of a slave is worth absolutely nothing to such powerful and wealthy men. Eventually, though, Mara has to choose a side, and one of her masters will prove himself to be a truly idealistic man, who is working towards a better future for Egypt. To get to her happy ending, Mara must rely on her own wits throughout the intrigue, throughout the danger. She has to overcome her own prejudices, and decide whether luxury and freedom is preferable to doing what she knows is right...despite the fact that it could cost her everything, including her life.

I loved Mara's determination. Yes, she is selfish initially, but this is a girl who has been a slave, mistreated, ill-fed, feared for her freakish colored eyes, of all things. She has endured hardship, beating, and so when she is given a chance at freedom, she takes it. And boy does she love what that little taste of freedom has to bring.
"[The clothes] were not too lavish...but to her it was unimaginable luxury. And as she shook the garments out one by one and looked at them, she felt again the fierce determination that nothing, nobody must stand in the way of her possessing such things always, freedom and gold and a life worth living---gardens with lotus blooming in the fishpool...rows and rows of papyrus scrolls on the shelves in a beautiful room.
So she dreamed."
Mara is not perfect; despite being a slave, she feels herself to be a true Egyptian, and looks down upon the foreign princess Inanni. Mara is patronizing towards Inanni's full figure, which is admired by her people, but reviled by the Egyptians, who prefer a slim silhouette. Inanni's strange clothes, her customs, her fear towards anything Egyptian is viewed condescendingly by the haughty Mara. Eventually, Mara grows to realize her own faults, and realizes that she has been underestimating her princess' strengths.

There is some romance in here, nothing too steamy, nothing inappropriate at all for the middle-grade audience. It grows step by step, there is no insta-love, as enemies grow to be friends, and then perhaps something more.

I absolutely loved the bits of Egyptian culture in this book. The descriptions of food, of customs, of cosmetics and clothing, of daily minutiae. I don't find that the adult novels of this nature does so well in the descriptions of little details as this one did.

The writing is beautiful, the speech pattern is strange, in some way, but does not feel out of place in this setting; I actually really loved the formal, slightly archaic quality of the speech in this book. The descriptions are beautifully described, in the way that Eloise McGraw does so well in all her children's books.

Highly recommended for anyone, of any age.
Profile Image for Sarah.
237 reviews1,094 followers
May 16, 2019
Egypt, mid-1400s B.C. –

Mara calls herself “the daughter of Nobody and Nothing.” She has been a slave for as long as she can remember, but her pale eyes and ability to speak Babylonian suggest that once she was free—and did not come from Egypt. Now in her late teens, she’s endured a succession of cruel and ignorant masters. She yearns, above all else, for freedom.

Freedom comes—with a steep price. Mara is purchased by a nobleman in Queen Hatshepsut’s inner circle. He needs a spy to report on the Queen’s brother, Thutmose, who might be planning a rebellion. If Mara betrays her master’s plans, her death is assured.

On the barge that will bring her to the royal city, Mara falls in with Sheftu, a young nobleman close to Prince Thutmose. Sheftu is part of the planned rebellion. He offers Mara, whom he thinks is just a runaway slave with no agenda, two options—spy for Prince Thutmose, or face death.

So this devious young lady finds herself a double agent, caught between two sides that will stake everything on keeping or gaining the throne. At first, it seems like a grand game. Mara gets to be an interpreter for a visiting foreign princess. For the first time in her life, she’ll have enough food, not to mention nice clothes, scrolls to read, and an unlimited supply of eyeliner (a quality-of-life issue for every ancient Egyptian). It helps that Sheftu is unconventionally handsome, with a witty, enigmatic mode of flirting that Mara finds enthralling.

But the deeper Mara gets into these parallel intrigues, she realizes that she’s already chosen a side…she’s lost her loyalty and her heart, and is now soon to die a traitor’s death.

Content Advisory

Violence: A slave is beaten in the early chapters of the story, and a bloody, near-fatal beating occurs near the end. A guard is quickly slain when he tries to alert authorities to a group of rebels lawbreaking. Characters mention being impaled on stakes or thrown to the Nile’s crocodiles, but we don’t see any such executions occur in the story. Someone is forced to imbibe poison, out of view of the POV characters.

Sex: The Canaanite princess, Inanni, is scandalized by Egyptian fashions—the women wear translucent sheath dresses and the men usually wear naught but kilts.

Language: Nothing.

Substance Abuse: Some background characters get drunk.

Politics and Religion: Fleeting moments of Egyptians showing ethnic prejudice against non-Egyptians. Various Egyptian gods are casually mentioned. We don’t hear much about them, and frankly none of the characters appear to believe in them strongly. Except for that head-scratching part where the POV shifts to Nut, the night-sky goddess, injecting a fantastical note into an otherwise very grounded narrative.

Nightmare Fuel: Let me put it this way—if you suffer from a fear of being trapped underground, there is a chapter in this book that you might find troubling. Some rebels break into a tomb, risking the death penalty for blasphemy if caught, to retrieve an item for the prince, and their torch goes out…in a room far underground full of creepy tomb paintings and guardian statues. Boy, that chapter was tense.

This book does not bat a thousand for historical accuracy—Hatshepsut was actually Thutmose III’s stepmother, not his half-sister as portrayed here. In real life, she died at age fifty of bone cancer after several years of poor health, a far cry from the coup and Socratic suicide portrayed in the novel. In fairness to McGraw, a lot of this information wasn’t available at the time that this book was published (1953).

That said, while the book is not flawless as a history lesson, it is near perfect as a classic YA spy novel with a strong and clever heroine, royal intrigue, romance, and an evocative historical setting.
Mara was hard to like at first. While it was understandable that her hard life had made her bitter and closed-off, the flippancy with which she treated her role was bothersome, as was her mean thoughts directed at Inanni and the other foreigners. The more Mara grew to care about Egypt, the more likeable she became. McGraw set up this seemingly heartless character and then yanked the heart from her chest. The last few chapters were nail-biters, because Mara finally understood what she stood to lose. Well done.

Sheftu is just my type of hero—witty, charismatic, always three steps ahead of his enemies, good-looking in an offbeat way, and both more principled and more caring than he lets on. The blogger at You, Me, and a Cup of Tea compared the dynamic between Sheftu and Mara to that between Han Solo and Princess Leia, albeit he’s the aristocrat and she’s the seemingly amoral, self-serving scoundrel/guttersnipe. Although Sheftu is definitely a nerf-herder. I can picture him sitting down for a drink with Eugenides, Howl, Jareth, George Cooper, Han Alister, and Morpheus the Netherling, and they would have a blast, rearranging the world and commiserating about their terrifying wives.

Ancient Egypt is an inherently fascinating culture. While the Mesopotamians fought amongst themselves and the Greeks were still figuring out how to read, Egypt kept doing what it always did—live along the Nile, build magnificent structures, watch the stars, and perseverate about Death. There’s a sense of timelessness, stability, and inexorability about their myths and their art and their artifacts that no other civilization can match. You can tell that McGraw loved Egypt, and her characters seem organic to the place.

Recommended warmly for fans of The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Bronze Bow, The Sherwood Ring, The Perilous Gard, Johnny Tremain, and Rosemary Sutcliff’s Roman Britain novels.
Profile Image for Kate.
326 reviews84 followers
May 27, 2019
Old review below. I disagree with myself. This book is a banger. It holds up.


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.

Oh, um, that t-shirt thing was in sixth grade, not college. In case that wasn't clear.
Profile Image for laurel [the suspected bibliophile].
1,410 reviews389 followers
June 1, 2019
Mara—ambitious and intelligent slave—gets caught up in a scheme to dethrone the pharaoh Hatshepsut while serving as an interpreter to the pharaoh's half-brother Thutmose. Yet Mara finds herself drawn to one side more than the other, particularly towards a handsome noble.

To be honest, I skimmed the last half of this book. It was so overly wordy and unnecessarily detailed with Mara doing dumb shit and being treated like a silly girl or the wiliest seductress that ever lived that I was tired of the whiplash—and exhausted by the constant references to her blue eyes.

I get it.

Her eyes are blue.

I don't need to be reminded of that at least once a page for...280-something pages.

This read like it was written in the 1950s, because it was. Lots of fatphobic statements, particularly about the Syrian princess Inanni and her ladies in waiting, and lots of commentary on skin color.

Also, the relationship between Sheftu and Mara was...cringe-worthy at best.

Aside from her eyes and her beauty, Mara wavers between being keenly intelligent, a fluttery ingenue, a wily politician, a sultry seductress and a dumb as shit 1950s trope. Like I said earlier—the transitions and unevenness in her character were enough to give me whiplash, and I was constantly struggling to figure out her motivation for playing both sides up the middle because 1) that never works and 2) she holds literally no cards in this poker game. Remove Mara, and the book basically continues without her.

And finally, I think I'm just tired of the evil queen tropes, as this plays with the propaganda that Hatshepsut was an awful, vainglorious and bitchy ruler who was rightfully deposed by her half-brother, who returned the country from turning inwards into building temple after temple and ruining the wealth of Egypt instead of focusing on conquering new lands and peoples.

In this book, Hatshepsut is reviled for her coldness and haughtiness (I mean, she is the physical reincarnation of the sun god...what exactly do you expect?) and being a woman ruler, while her asshole half-brother Thutmose is a caged lion, filled with anger, charisma and intelligence...and a heavy dose of the same heavy-handed brutality his sister has.

They are pretty much two halves of the same coin.

Guess who is celebrated for their traits and who isn't?


So yeah. This just made me tired.
Profile Image for Willow .
234 reviews98 followers
October 18, 2014
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 romantic. It’s like they put every bit of sexual tension and wrapped it up in that one kiss. I can’t help but think though that it’s a characteristic of that time period, which sort of dates it.

And like an old movie, the book moved a little bit slower. The middle dragged. This is why I knocked a star. I think the writing is lovely though.

I liked the characters, especially Mara and Inanni and their friendship.

I have to commend Eloise Jarvis McGraw for her excellent research and the descriptive way she brings ancient Egypt to life. McGraw adds all these lovely details, which made me think of old Egyptian art and artifacts. Although I’m much more of a Hatshepsut fangirl than McGraw is. In fact, I felt a little like Mara was helping the wrong side, because let’s face it, Hatshepsut was awesome. Sheftu argues that the Queen spends too much money on buildings, but what does he want to do, build up the army so they can go raid the borders. Whatever, Sheftu. Let’s face it, guys, you’re just annoyed that the Pharaoh is a woman, a very successful woman.

But anyway, I did enjoy this and highly recommend it to ancient Egypt fans.

Profile Image for Els.
283 reviews2 followers
June 7, 2019
Good? Wackily historically inaccurate? (It's an older book, so . . . forgivable.) Also how did a character go from being beaten (!) to near death (!!) twice (!!!) to happily chatting with her lover 20 seconds later? That's not how being beaten to death works, I'm quite certain.
Profile Image for Suzannah.
Author 27 books472 followers
May 14, 2023
This book rewrote my psyche when I was 13 years old. It's sometimes a mistake to revisit stories of such importance, because they don't always hold up. I'm amazed how well this book - which is older than my mum - did so.

When I say this book rewrote my psyche, I normally mean that it was the first unabashed romance that absolutely captured me. I was embarrassed about this for many years, but in hindsight, this is probably because the romance in this book was so well done. But this time, I'm amazed how many other things this book does that I've found myself returning to as an author. It's not just the incredible duel of wits playing out between the two protagonists - it's also the court intrigue, the vividly described ancient Egyptian setting, the spy suspense, the warm female friendship, the sweep of the narrative across all social strata. This book achieves a truly astonishing amount in fewer than 300 pages, and these days as a historical fantasy author I find with surprise that this book feels like the condensation of everything I like to read and everything I like to write. And it's amazing to me that for so many years I never gave the undeniably excellent craftsmanship on show here the respect it deserved, purely because I thought that a kissing book couldn't possibly merit respect.

This isn't to say that the book is perfect. Our protagonists both get by on their wits, and most of the time they ARE delightfully clever, but on two occasions one of them DOES behave rather idiotically. Hatshepsut is pitched as the villain for neglecting the Egyptian empire and emptying the treasury on vanity building projects, while Thutmose III is pitched as the hero for being ready to spend all that money on beefing up the army and going on new wars of conquest. I'm sure that it would be understatement to say that seventy years on(!!!), much of the historical detail is no longer current. And, you have disability being used as a marker of villainy and multiple characters being weird about another character's weight.

That aside, however, this was still an absolutely breathless read. McGraw gives us a terrific cast of characters in a fast-moving, never overly-complicated plot, and keeps ratcheting up the suspense throughout. While there are DEFINITELY some hilarious 1950s tropes at play in the enemies-to-lovers romance, if you compare them to the mainstream of 1950s romance writing (just try watching the movie THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR...or better, don't) they are astonishingly unproblematic. Sheftu and Mara spend much of the book at odds, trying to outwit each other, and there's a delicious flurry of backstabbing at the end, and yet the characters' distrust of each other never topples into something toxic.

I come away from this most recent reading of the novel feeling greater respect than ever. For most of my life I've felt embarrassed how much I enjoyed this book, but I'm discarding such childish things now. Despite very much being of its time, this is a heck of a good yarn, and I recommend it to everybody.
Profile Image for Gail Carriger.
Author 64 books14.9k followers
November 19, 2009
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 Mara is spunky in a very modern vampire slayer kind of way. Well ahead of it's time.
Profile Image for Evelynn.
243 reviews
September 20, 2013
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 to you so slight compared to others you have had before?"

"Nay, not in the least!"

Mara raised her brows slightly. Other than his eyes, which glittered with amusement, the careless smile that returned to Sheftu's face did not tell he knew he had been neatly trapped. Instead of changing the subject, he went on as if his outburst had not been a mistake. "There were many things that brought it above the rest. Intrigue, betrayal, adventure, romance.... All these things combined made the reading—enjoyable."

Inwardly, Mara sighed irritably, but did not show her frustration outwardly. Ai, "enjoyable"! Sheftu was surely a rogue, as Nekonkh had pointed out before, just not the kind of rogue he referred to. "But what of your opinion, Sashai?"

"My opinion of it—is as my opinion of you, guttersnipe, my lovely Mara."

Mara put on an innocent expression. "What is your opinion of me, pray?"

Sheftu drew her close, his eyes traveling her face, and Mara’s heart pounded faster. "That thou are my beloved, Lotus-Eyed One," he said slowly, gently. He fingered the lotus in Mara's hair. "And you always will be."

Another amazing book by the same author is The Golden Goblet. I have written a review for it also, which you can find here.
Profile Image for twicebaked.
441 reviews
May 3, 2023
This book is better than five stars. Honestly, I couldn't love a book more, this was the very first I ever reread. Before that, after I finished a book, no matter how much I enjoyed it, I never picked it up again - I knew what was coming, and how it ended, and there was no reason to revisit until I read this book. One of the first books I ever truly loved, it gets better every time you read it.

A very sweet, complicated story about Hatshepsut's reign and ultimate overthrow. And Mara's right in the middle of it, juggling her life and the lives of others that she likes (or, maybe, dislikes). She's desperate for good luck, her whole life has been "finders keepers", "grab it before somebody else does", and she slowly realizes throughout the book that sometimes you don't have to: sometimes things are given.

More importantly, sometimes things are earned.

I appreciate the fact that when the author uses Egyptian words she doesn't explain them (or repeat them in English) like some authors do. Instead, she has the meaning slipped in without you realizing it.
"Haut meryt, you are mistaken!" protested Sheftu. "There is no name better remembered or more honored than yours in all the Black Land."

"Honor I never cared for - nor fame or riches - then or now. 'Beloved General,' you call me..."

You almost don't realize when she explains the words, because she doesn't really explain. She just translates subtly.

What an amazing book. Couldn't recommend it more. Amazing storytelling and world-building, huge (but subtle) character growth, and a very in-depth, realistic depiction of what life was like during Queen H's reign. It's a great book that sheds some light on a time that isn't really talked about in school or movies or books, and though not completely true to historical events, it instills an appreciation for the Egyptian culture, an interest in those times, and an idea of what that event might have been like.
Profile Image for Sophia.
284 reviews13 followers
March 12, 2008
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 descriptions of ancient Eygpt's people, lands, and politics are so engaging it's hard to pay attention to the romance. It's irritating that Hatshepsut has been turned into the evil villainess, and the "fettered king" whose revolution is being planned isn't described as, ahem, her half-brother and husband (who didn't need a revolution), so it's easier just to read the story as entirely made up. Definitely recommended, even if one of the last lines in the story is "Oh, Amon! No hand but mine shall slay that misbegotten Libyan!"
Profile Image for Tweety.
433 reviews198 followers
March 20, 2015
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 entangled in it all. She plays both sides, but what will she do when both realize her duplicity?

This book was so much better than I'd thought it would be, I was afraid it would have a modern feel to it, but instead, I felt that I was right next to Mara, doing my utmost to outwit them all. I think this book is timeless.

Did I say it was beautiful? It is beautiful.

G rating There is, of course, the Egyptian Gods and Burials pomp also there is a whipping at the end, which is not described in a sickening way. Still, it was never shoved in your face.
Profile Image for ♥ℳelody.
613 reviews602 followers
June 11, 2018
Aaaaaah. Sheftu! ❤️ One of the very *few* school assigned books from Middle School that I remember loving so much and completely wrapped up in because of the setting and beautiful love story. I clearly had a thing for Romance even then. lol
Profile Image for Jackie B. - Death by Tsundoku.
757 reviews50 followers
January 30, 2016
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 from this story. A lot happens in a small period of time.

Mara encounters many people during her adventures, and I find them all quite intriguing. What made them to intriguing to me was how perspective switched between them all. We really got to understand this plot as it unfolded from many sides. Now, all those sides happened to be the "winning" side, but that's okay. Either way, it really brought depth to the story. For example, Mara is always scheming to try and maintain her double-agent status. She is constantly complimenting herself on how sneaky she is. However, when we see Mara from another perspective-- we learn this isn't 100% the truth. Inanni, the Canaanite princess Mara acts as interpreter for, notices that Mara is acting suspicious. She knows that something is amiss, and we see Mara for what she really is. Yes, crafty. Yes, smart. But flawed. Which is lovely.

I recommend this novel to anyone interested in "Spies! Intrigue! Plotting! Romance! Gold! Pharoahs! Swashbuckling! Betrayal! Anguish! " or just YA historical fiction. :) So, hopefully, everyone.
Profile Image for rose ★.
225 reviews125 followers
November 4, 2020
oh, to be a young girl living and dreaming in ancient egypt, dangling the lives of two monarchs and the fate of a country in my own calloused palm

mara has always known to look out for herself. as a slave, she knows that her only true ally is herself, and she can never trust or rely on others. she is told that she is unworthy, beneath others, but mara is defiant. she may lack power, but she is not downtrodden and she is not defeated. mara is not content to keep her head down, but she dreams of riches, palaces, and freedom. so, when mara gets a chance to gain all these things she’s dreamed about, she takes it. she is willing to do whatever she must to gain her freedom, even though the risk would her losing her life. mara is thrust into political turmoil, playing the role of double spy for two contenders to the throne. but, rather than choose the side of one of the rulers, she picks her own side. mara is determined to play to both opponents, working the playing field so that no matter who wins the war, she will win herself. mara is ready and willing to play this dangerous game- the problem is, she isn’t the only one playing it. and the more she wins, the more she has to lose.
Profile Image for Amy.
2,578 reviews400 followers
May 23, 2018
2018 Review
Still one of my favorite historical fiction novels. No matter how many times I re-read it, still terrific!

Earlier Review
Mara is an Egyptian slave girl who dreams of freedom, a full-belly, and a life no longer devoted to thievery. When a mysterious stranger buys her and offers freedom in exchange for information about a band of rebels, she determines nothing must stand in her way...
But life has a way of playing tricks, as Mara discovers herself solicited and serving the very rebels she set out destroy. Things only get more complicated when she finds herself falling in love with man she must destroy to suceed...
Mara Daughter of the Nile is a terrific historical novel set in Egypt, filled with political intrigue, danger, double agents, and romance. Its amazing =D I whole-heartedly reccomend it. Its my fifth favorite book =D
Profile Image for Hana.
522 reviews292 followers
June 1, 2014
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 details correct: the right hand to left shoulder salute, the jewelry and clothing, the terrifying tombs in the Valley of the Kings. No one knows what ancient Egyptian sounded like, but McGraw mixes in enough likely phrases to make the dialog quite believable.

I knocked off one star because I thought both of Mara's new masters were too casual in their oversight of this 'agent', and not menacing enough; also I wish we had learned more of Mara's past history, especially how she learned to read and move so easily among the upper classes.

But no matter, it was a delightful book and definitely rated G for general audiences (except, of course, this is ancient Egypt, so there are oodles of pagan gods and weird burial practices).
Profile Image for Anne Osterlund.
Author 5 books5,517 followers
October 3, 2012
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 on the edge of death. Of course, she could sell out Sheftu to the Queen and save her own hide.

But what will happen to Egypt if she does?

Mara, Daughter of the Nile has EVERYTHING, in my opinion, that makes great historical fiction. A heroine with enough guts to make her every move worth following. A romance with plenty of danger, suspicion, and impossibility to be totally worth it. Enough historical detail to make you feel like you’re living in the time period. And plenty of political drama to keep you turning pages well into the night and beyond.

My FAVORITE historical fiction novel.
Profile Image for Sharla.
210 reviews6 followers
September 7, 2018
I love this story. I loved it even more the second time reading it. It is the type of book that I only find once in a blue moon. Immensely intriguing, fast-paced, captivating characters, and edgy yet lighthearted enough to keep me from spending days bemoaning the darkness of mankind.  It took me to ancient Egypt. With all its flowery over the top descriptions (which I loved), it brought me to the bank of the Nile watching the ships sail into the dark. I got see a world ablaze with ambition, hope and desperation.

The characters are  extremely clever. I love clever characters. You know the saying "you can be too clever"? I think this book perfectly illustrates and refutes that concept.

The story flows well, never resting too long in one spot.

The setting. It is set in ancient Egypt. That is pretty sweet. Don't argue with me on that. (Actually do argue, I like to argue. It is interesting, I get to hear different opinions. Argue away in the comments. I want to hear it all!)

Sheftu & Mara. Talk about romance. Talk about sparks. Talk about chemistry. Talk about two characters with dynamite personalities! These two were well-matched. It was superb clash and contrast between the two. I dislike books where the girl is weak willed, or is stubborn but rather stupid. Or even worse, when a character starts out strong-willed and spirited but they fall in love and turn into a sappy mess. That does not happen here. Instead I found Mara to be not just spirited, but smart and incredibly clever. Sheftu was equally clever and I find nothing so satisfying as witnessing two characters match wits.

I would say that it is too short, but that's not true. Making it longer would have lessened this story's potency and made it weaker.

I like this book exactly as it is. Read more reviews at: honestavocado.wordpress.com
Profile Image for Shantelle.
Author 2 books357 followers
November 23, 2015
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 very well done. A fascinating plot, equally fascinating (thought at times radical) characters, and an unexpectedly sweet and even swoon-y romance. :)

Mara, who starts out as a thoroughly rebellious slave, was quite proud at times. A little too proud. But as the end of the book came about, you certainly watched her character change to that of something better. She softened, though her wild, passionate spirit remained as steadfast and loyal as ever. Her eventual beloved was quite the mysterious man. Caring one moment, loftily teasing the next, and darkly intense the next. You can't really blame her for falling for him.

I don't think I've read a book quite like this before. It was surprising, breathtaking, and quite startling at points. Really a story to keep you hustling back to its pages once you get into it.

As I always say, I prefer a strong spiritual theme. -Which Mara, Daughter of the Nile obviously doesn't have. Oh it has religion, but that of the Egyptian legends and whatnot. But I can certainly appreciate it as a very good historical read, and just very good story-writing overall! :)
Profile Image for Becky.
263 reviews120 followers
October 18, 2013
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, because I love political intrigue, and there was plenty of that evident here.

I sat up late finishing it, hooked from almost the first page. Definitely recommend this to fans of Crown Duel.
Profile Image for Bri Martinez.
247 reviews46 followers
June 14, 2019
I read this book at 27 years old when a friend told me this was her favorite childhood book. Having just read it, I can safely say MY CHILDHOOD SELF MISSED OUT ON SOMETHING AMAZING.

This is definitely a book I will cherish and pass down to my children. I loved it having read it as an adult, and I can only imagine how much I would have loved it as a child. This was an enchanting tale filled with action, adventure, romance, and intrigue, and I was engrossed immediately. I miss quality literature like this! McGraw is a masterful storyteller, and I will be on the lookout for some of her other books.
Profile Image for Elevetha .
1,768 reviews168 followers
November 5, 2015
This was an awesome book. Not sure what I was expecting but this exceeded..by 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.
April 29, 2023
*4.5 stars*

Oh, what can I say? What a hidden gem. I loved it from cover to cover (theoretically, as I listened to the audiobook read by Tara Sands.)

The setting was so immersive, the characters distinct and likable, the plot kept you on the edge of your seat, and the romance was wonderful. The writing was something special with a sprinkling of older language (given that it was written in the 1950’s), but it was never burdensome or difficult to understand and honestly really added to the picture.

Though this is historical fiction, the plot and romance were honestly a well written version of something you would find in the YA section.

I definitely recommend this to people who like fantasy romance and want to try getting into historical, or just someone looking for a solid plot and dynamic romance rolled into one!

Since this does take place in Egypt, the characters all follow the Egyptian gods and superstitions and often make exclamations referring to them. There’s also a chapter or two that are in the POV of a god, just as an FYI to my fellow Christians out there ^^. But that’s really my only warning, none of the references to the Egyptian religion is concerning, and neither are the few mature themes or bit of violence graphic.

I hope y’all enjoy as much as I did!
Profile Image for Hannah.
193 reviews23 followers
January 5, 2014
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 written in the early 20th century. This is mostly good. The overall feel is an appealing mix of Alfred Hitchcock with The Ten Commandments.
It's not really a historical book at all, in spite of all the researched details. It's a fairy tale---a dashing twist on Cinderella--and very suspenseful. This is no cozy mystery where you're sure the heroine won't end up getting hurt. The plot is fast-paced, unpredictable, and the reader is never certain of the safety of any of the characters. Danger takes center stage and reigns supreme. In fact, it's a miracle Mara and Sheftu both didn't get killed. The risks they were taking were just incredible.
The book is outstanding. There are only a very few flaws I noticed, and I typically mention any flaws I saw in a review, so here goes..
1: The Princess Inanni of Canaan is a good character in herself, but the incessant snide commentary on her weight and the weight of her ladies-in-waiting makes the book seem dated and the heroine, Mara, unkind. Weight comments are a problem in a lot of the popular fiction of that era. I felt this hurt Mara's character a little bit. We were told she's a smart girl and remarkably practical. That isn't consistent with vaguely disliking someone because of her weight---the Princess is a useful friend for Mara ( in fact, without her Mara would undoubtedly have died) and a smart girl would know better than to let physical traits get in the way of making friends.
2: During a thrilling scene inside a pyramid the hero, Sheftu, hesitates to kill a man who is certain to betray him to the authorities. This didn't feel believable to me. A guy like Sheftu is too tough and too smart to be merciful. He can't afford to be a gentleman when he's also an outlaw and a spy. That's a shame, but it's true, and Sheftu hesitating made him look less convincing as a tough guy.

That's enough criticism for one review!
To wrap it up...great book, but not perfect. I've yet to find a perfect book, so Mara still gets 5 stars.
Profile Image for Catherine.
319 reviews33 followers
December 24, 2021
DNF @45%.

I really wanted to like this one, I truly did. I'm a sucker for ancient Egypt and political intrigue, but this was so flat for me. I even left it for a week to see if that would give me a reset to see if I liked it more when I picked it up again, but I didn't.

The writing of Mara is like mixing someone who is 12, young, naïeve and foolish, with someone who is old enough and confident enough to use what they have to get what they want, it's too contradictory and doesn't match the age she's supposed to be. Maybe if I'd read this when I was younger I would have enjoyed it, but for now, it couldn't hold my interest.
Profile Image for Celeste Ng.
Author 7 books87k followers
June 16, 2007
LOVED this as a kid (read it in Mrs. Derrick's 5th grade ARP class), although the language and plot are quite complex for a children's book. It's a revolution story, a character study, a love story, and a portrait of ancient Egypt under the reign of Hatshepsut all at once. I don't usually recommend books for the sake of "getting a flavor" of a particular region or time, and I don't claim that this book is accurate, but it did spark a long-abiding interest in ancient Egypt and ancient history for me.
Profile Image for Ana.
1 review
October 5, 2020
I adored this book. In one word, I would describe it as vivid--the characters, the setting, the plot, everything comes together so gloriously and creates a beautiful, capturing book. Do give it a read!
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