Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Mara, Daughter of the Nile” as Want to Read:
Mara, Daughter of the Nile
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Mara, Daughter of the Nile

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  9,999 ratings  ·  870 reviews
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.

Against her will, Mara finds herself falling in love with one of her masters, the noble Sheftu, and she starts to believe in his plans of restoring Thu
...more
Paperback, 279 pages
Published October 1st 1985 by Puffin Books (first published 1953)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Mara, Daughter of the Nile, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Rebecca This is an old thread, but I wanted to weigh in. This book was written in the 50s. As a result we didn't actually know much about Hatshepsut when this…moreThis is an old thread, but I wanted to weigh in. This book was written in the 50s. As a result we didn't actually know much about Hatshepsut when this books was written. So take the historical accuracy with a grain of salt, but please keep in mind that the author was trying her best to be accurate with the knowledge that was available to her at the time, (less)
Carla S Pre-teen to mid-teen, because of the political intrigue. I remember how much I liked it.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.23  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,999 ratings  ·  870 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of Mara, Daughter of the Nile
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
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 live
...more
Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies
"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
...more
Sarah
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
...more
Kate
Mar 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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 no
...more
Willow
Oct 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: egypt
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 roman
...more
laurel [the suspected bibliophile]
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
...more
Gail Carriger
Nov 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: young adults
Shelves: favorites, ya, reviewed
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
...more
Els
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.
Tweety
Nov 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All people, you won't regret it
Recommended to Tweety by: Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
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 ent
...more
Evelynn
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
...more
twice_baked✌️
Nov 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is better than five stars. Honestly, I couldn't love a book more. 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 (and, maybe, dislikes). She's desperate for good luck, her whole life has been "grab it before somebody else does", "finders keepers", and she slowly realizes througho
...more
Sophia
Feb 24, 2008 rated it liked it
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 descript ...more
♥ℳelody
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
Schuyler
May 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Mara is one of those books that is pure fun to read. All the time you're reading, you're thinking "this is a good story--a lifetime story--this is why I love books". It's spy fiction at its tightest, with tiny clues and grand stakes that all weave together into the delicious combination of suspense that I like to experience. This book has everything from midnight meets to tomb robbing (and breaking the royal seals on the tombs was no joke for an Egyptian).

The characterization gives food for thou
...more
Jackie B. - Death by Tsundoku
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 f
...more
rose ★
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
...more
Amy
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 sh
...more
Hana
May 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 deta
...more
Anne Osterlund
Apr 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 o
...more
Suzannah
May 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
I am embarrassed to admit how much I love this book.
Becky
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,
...more
Bri Martinez •Books and Bri•
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 l
...more
Elevetha
Aug 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Pretty much anyone
Recommended to Elevetha by: Miss Clark
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.
Minni Mouse
Hard to believe this was first published in 1953! That alone deserves a round of applause for a YA historical standing the test of time so well.

Overall, just a lack of book chemistry.
Ana
Oct 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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!
Hannah
Nov 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: romance
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 writ
...more
Sharla
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: witty-characters
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 ...more
Shantelle
May 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 ver
...more
Juny
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very few and far between do I rate a book five stars...and Holy COW!!! This one was five star material!
It was soooo exciting at every single moment! Never a bored moment! Everything goes deliciously right but then wrong in this book! It was like two Eugenides in one book! Yet Mara and Sheftu were also different! I can't say anything to do this book justice, I just hope that everyone reads this masterpiece!
(Also very cleverly done was the mention of the golden bee necklace as an Easter egg from
...more
Sherwood Smith
I think this was the first book that turned me on to historical fiction. I checked it out over and over.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Hittite Warrior
  • God King: A Story in the Days of King Hezekiah
  • Seven Daughters and Seven Sons
  • Mystery of the Roman Ransom
  • The Trojan War
  • Shadow Spinner
  • Greek Myths
  • The Bronze Bow
  • The Sherwood Ring
  • The Great and Terrible Quest
  • The House of Sixty Fathers
  • Theras and His Town
  • A Murder for Her Majesty
  • The Shakespeare Stealer (Shakespeare Stealer, #1)
  • The Beduins' Gazelle
  • Flame Over Tara
  • The Samurai's Tale
  • Black Horses for the King
See similar books…
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 book ...more

News & Interviews

Are you spending this season bundling up against the chill or enjoying summery southern hemisphere vibes (in which case we are...
77 likes · 28 comments
“...The queen's mocking laughter cut in. "This is your treasure, Lord Sheftu?"

"Aye. The greatest treasure in Egypt—a maid whose loyalty cannot be bought. Whatever bargain we make, Daughter of the Sun, must include her freedom.”
40 likes
“You are both daring and unscrupulous, and you think fast. I have been looking for a person with those particular characteristics. Also I noticed you speak Babylonian.” 15 likes
More quotes…