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The Heretic Queen

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In ancient Egypt, a forgotten princess must overcome her family’s past and remake history.

The winds of change are blowing through Thebes. A devastating palace fire has killed the Eighteenth Dynasty’s royal family–with the exception of Nefertari, the niece of the reviled former queen, Nefertiti. The girl’s deceased family has been branded as heretical, and no one in Egypt will speak their names. Nefertari is pushed aside, an unimportant princess left to run wild in the palace. But this changes when she is taken under the wing of the Pharaoh’s aunt, then brought to the Temple of Hathor, where she is educated in a manner befitting a future queen.

Soon Nefertari catches the eye of the Crown Prince, and despite her family’s history, they fall in love and wish to marry. Yet all of Egypt opposes this union between the rising star of a new dynasty and the fading star of an old, heretical one. While political adversity sets the country on edge, Nefertari becomes the wife of Ramesses the Great. Destined to be the most powerful Pharaoh in Egypt, he is also the man who must confront the most famous exodus in history.

"Nefertari tells her story simply, humbly, and in a clear voice that will attract readers."–Romantic Times

370 pages, Paperback

First published August 7, 2008

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About the author

Michelle Moran

11 books5,032 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Michelle Moran is the international bestselling author of six historical novels, including Madame Tussaud, which was optioned for a mini-series in 2011. Her books have been translated into more than twenty languages.

A native of southern California, Michelle attended Pomona College, then earned a Masters Degree from the Claremont Graduate University. During her six years as a public high school teacher, she used her summers to travel around the world, and it was her experiences as a volunteer on archaeological digs that inspired her to write historical fiction.

In 2012 Michelle was married in India, inspiring her seventh book, Rebel Queen, which is set in the East. Her hobbies include hiking, traveling, and archaeology. She is also fascinated by archaeogenetics, particularly since her children's heritages are so mixed. But above all these things, Michelle is passionate about reading, and can often be found with her nose in a good book. A frequent traveler, she currently resides with her husband, son, and daughter in the US.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,846 reviews
Profile Image for Debbie W..
760 reviews565 followers
July 31, 2021
Michelle Moran's well-researched novel about Nefertari, one of ancient Egypt's most well-known queens, has so much going for it:

1. it seems that Nefertari can never catch a break! Moran brings to life all the possible conniving, backstabbing treachery aimed to bring this poor girl down, just because she may be related to Queen Nefertiti;
2. around p. 164, the action starts heating up as Nefertari begins her role as co-regent to Ramesses II by reading and judging petitions in the Audience Chamber, being involved in various court business, such as dealing with famine and irrigation inventions, and most interesting to me, Nefertari's (fictional) meetings with "Ahmoses" (aka biblical Moses);
3. the Author's Note at the beginning of the book recalls people and events from Moran's novel Nefertiti, thereby allowing this to work as a stand-alone book; and,
4. this edition includes a: 19th Dynasty family tree; map of Egypt about 1285 BC; Historical Note; Glossary; and a Calendar depicting Seasons, Months, Festivals and Dates.

Although I appreciated the opulent setting descriptions, I found they got to be somewhat repetitive.

Whenever a book gets me started Googling to learn more about its topic, then I really enjoyed reading it - including this book!

Profile Image for Sheree.
572 reviews106 followers
January 2, 2009
Loved it, loved it, loved it. I don't normally gush about a novel but I enjoyed this even more than 'Nefertiti' & I really didn't want it to end. It was a vivid, captivating page-turner and I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in the Ancient Egyptian world.
I have been interested in Ancient Egypt since my own school years then helping my sons with assignments on Ancient Egypt; the pharoahs, the Gods, their customs and burial practices, I have always found their highly advanced civilisation fascinating.
Nefertari, the orphaned daughter of Mutnodjmet and niece of the infamous Nefertiti is an absolute delight in this novel.
She is kind-hearted and moral like her mother but very strong and clever without being calculating. I was caught up in the love story between Nefertari and Ramesses the Great, Nefertari's battle to gain the respect and admiration of Egypt and her triumph over her family's checkered past.

I await Michelle Moran's next novel, 'Cleopatra's Daughter' with much anticipation and great impatience!
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,334 reviews29 followers
June 10, 2015
Moran also wrote Nefertiti and Cleopatra's Daughter, but I only read this one. Set in ancient Egypt, The Heretic Queen is an odd mixture, because it felt sometimes exactly like a romance (and a sexy one) and other times like a historical narrative (with some liberally embellished and possibly fabricated history). For romance readers, it might be a nice cross-genre piece, since it bridges both worlds. For those who like more history, and only the straight dope, this will disappoint.

Setting: Ancient Egypt (Thebes) at the time of Ramesses III, referred to as Ramesses the Great, who reigned as pharaoh from 1279– 1213 BC.

POV: The story is told by Nefertari, whose beloved mother is Mutdodjmet, a former queen. According to this author, Nefertari is the niece of the dead and yet still reviled Queen Nefertiti. (Try keeping those names straight.) Young Nefertari's moldering Aunt Nefertiti is none other than the historically fascinating "Heretic Queen" (~1370 – 1330 BC) -- the Great Royal Wife and chief consort of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten. They abolished Egypt's pantheon of gods and tried to force a religious revolution, a type of monotheism where all must worship one god only, Aten, the sun disc. (Moran seems to link this revolution with the zealot Ahmoses / Moses.)

When the story begins, young Nefertari is about 10, and her infamous aunt is dead, but her family name is still muddier than the Nile riverbank (we are reminded of this ad nauseum). So, the courageous and intelligent young princess comes in for a lot of belittlement and bullying. We see "Nefer" attending "school" with young Ramesses and falling in ♥ with him. Showing her solid core, and aided by her astounding facility for languages, she holds her own in the competitive and backstabbing classrooms and courts of the king.

Her greatest wish is to marry Ramesses. But what are the chances, with her family rap? Nefer does exactly as her wise mentors (Woserit, high priestess, and Paser) advise to gain public favor and personal sex appeal, so she can become an acceptable candidate for queen. And she does, gaining the title of The Warrior Queen of Egypt, despite a few deadly enemies who would stop at nothing to destroy her.

I originally gave it 2 stars because when I read historical narratives, I want the focus to be on history, and not on sex (I save that for my romance reading). But...maybe I was a little harsh. The story is fairly absorbing (at times). The narrative flows (much of the time), the setting is fairly vivid, and the dialogue decent (but nothing special). There are some moderately poignant portrayals of friendship, aging, and death. I liked the part about learning various languages (we have it so easy), and the part about finding a way to irrigate Egypt when the rains wouldn't come. The many interactions with pharaoh's court of advisors held my attention, as did the battles and negotiations with neighboring countries. That said, too much girl talk, gossip, vying for favor, clothing, sandals, face paint, sex, pregnancy, labor, etc., etc.

IMO, it should be shelved as historical romance. Not history or biography. Probably not even historical fiction. The whole book was about a young girl falling in love with the heir to the Egyptian throne and doing everything possible to become his queen, and then to remain at his side when competing wives tried to edge her out. There are a few sex scenes.

Further, I thought the author mishandled or at least underplayed the whole deal with Moses and the Ten Plagues of Egypt (in effect, Moran largely ignored the Habiru / Hebrew account while still including a religious fanatic by the name of Ahmoses / Moses ).

In sum, it felt like an unexceptional romance (I have read some beautiful ones) and a weak portrayal of a fascinating period in Egyptian (and Hebrew) history. I wanted more, more, more about Ramesses. But this really isn't his story.

From Wiki: Nefertari also known as Nefertari Merytmut was one of the Great Royal Wives (or principal wives) of Ramesses the Great...She is one of the best known Egyptian queens, next to Cleopatra, Nefertiti and Hatshepsut. Her lavishly decorated tomb, QV66, is the largest and most spectacular in the Valley of the Queens. Ramesses also constructed a temple for her at Abu Simbel next to his colossal monument here. (More details and a few images at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nefertari)
Profile Image for Iset.
665 reviews491 followers
March 10, 2015

There are plenty of issues to raise here, a few good but also plenty of bad. The coherence of the plot is noticeably better than in Moran's first effort, "Nefertiti", which felt like a force of nature carried the helpless characters along a raging torrent without rhyme or reason to the conclusion of the novel. This book at least has an objective in mind, and the plot revolves around whether or not Nefertari will succeed or fail in achieving this objective - becoming Chief Wife and exposing the plotting of Henuttawy and Iset. Unfortunately, "The Heretic Queen" is an example of an obstacle which could be easily resolved in five minutes if only the characters would take the necessary action, but gets artificially strung out over an entire book. Nefertari never reports Henuttawy and Iset's atrocious behaviour or plots to Ramesses, it is only after two people have died and their plotting is exposed beyond all doubt that she reveals her knowledge of the plot. Nefertari's unsatisfactory explanation for this that everyone else told her that Henuttawy would make it seem to Ramesses like she was lying. Frankly, that doesn't cut the mustard. Ramesses, we are told, loves Nefertari beyond all else and trusts her - are we honestly to believe that had Nefertari told him about Henuttawy and Iset, Ramesses would have been convinced that she was a liar and wouldn't have investigated the matter AT ALL? Doesn't sound like a very trusting relationship!

Henuttawy and Iset do not make credible antagonists and act more like petulant teenagers than real adversaries. Henuttawy at one point destroys a royal mural of Nefertari's mother, Mutnodjmet (in the book - historically we do not know the identity of her parents). This wanton destruction of the representation of an immortal queen (which according to Egyptian belief would have the effect of damaging Mutnodjmet's body in the afterlife) would have been unacceptable, even from a princess like Henuttawy. At other points Henuttawy makes completely out of line snide comments such as "And let us hope she does not have the blood of the Heretic King in her veins" at Nefertari's own wedding feast - a comment so out of line that it was obviously going to earn Henuttawy the rebuke of all present. It's the kind of ill-thought out dig that smacks of a stroppy teen, not a serious adversary. Iset is just as bad. Her ploys, such as arguing with Nefertari about the temple plans simply for the sake of it, are utterly transparent and she comes across as whiny and childish. And we're supposed to give these antagonists any credibility whatsoever? With such weak opponents facing Nefertari, the story completely lacks any tension.

Worse, the portrayals of almost every other character are equally one-dimensional and flat. Nefertari bears no resemblance at all to the complex, vibrant real woman of history, and is instead a cardboard cut-out child prodigy who can do no wrong and is woefully lacking in any real faults or flaws. This made it difficult to relate to her or empathise when she has to suffer through the childish pranks played on her by Iset and Henuttawy - even though I felt like Moran was hitting me over the head with "isn't Nefertari tragic? You should sympathise with her" with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. As for Ramesses, he comes across as disappointingly gullible and weak; manipulated by everyone around him. The other characters were wafer-thin and forgettable.

The main premise of the entire book is that Nefertari would have faced popular opposition due to being associated with Akhenaten and Nefertiti and their Aten worship. Leaving aside the fact that there are significant issues with the evidence and dating which make it improbable that Nefertari was Mutnodjmet's daughter (and that Mutnodjmet was even Nefertiti's sister), is it really plausible that peasants would have had close enough access to Queen Nefertari to have shouted "heretic" at her? Even if they could get that close, is it believable that any of them would've dared to do so? The answer is no, and this is just common sense, which applies even if you're not a historian. But hypothetically, if a large mob of angry peasants could have and wanted to heckle Nefertari during her wedding procession and later at the palace gates, would this have been allowed to happen? NO! Royal guards and army militiamen would have been ordered to swoop down on the mob long before they reached the sacred royals, and subdued them. Would Nefertari and Ramesses really come out to address the crowd? Not a chance. They're of the royal blood, descended from millennia of pharaohs and divine embodiments of the gods. They did not believe that they had to justify themselves to a small mob of disgruntled peasants - it was the gods that were important. The most disappointing thing is that this failure is less about historical accuracy than it is about poor quality writing. Plenty of books make historical errors or deliberate alterations which I can quite happily get on board with, because the author makes their fictional vision seem realistic, authentic, and ultimately gripping. Moran fails to do this. Her "heretic mob" scenarios are thinly sketched and feel absurd. The dialogue is juvenile and the descriptions are basic. There's no complexity here, no subtlety or sophistication.

In short, it's about suspension of disbelief. It is up to the writer to create an environment, a world in which the characters move, that is plausible in order to enable the reader to experience full immersion in the story. If the story is fantasy, sci-fi or another fantastical genre, that should not preclude it from being realistic or believable, as those worlds can have their own set of rules and laws, as long as they make sense in the story. In a book that is based in our world, and furthermore on actual events, as in the historical fiction genre, this kind of skill and storycraft is absolutely critical. People may use the excuse of "it's only fiction", and yes, this is a perfectly acceptable reason to excuse deliberately made historical alterations (hopefully revealed in an author's note, to avoid inadvertantly perpetuating incorrect information) within a story (though not unwitting errors - that's just bad research). However, "fiction" is not an adequate excuse for failing to produce a piece of work that immerses the reader, a work that the reader can't engage with because it lacks the feel of the genuine and the believable. That would be incorrectly correlating "fiction and non-fiction" with "unrealism and realism", when in fact, as aforementioned, there is nothing that should preclude a work of fiction from being realistic or plausible. Simply put, Moran lacks the skill and storycraft required to create this plausibility.

I was really disappointed with this book, because I had such high hopes for it. It's rare to find historical fiction on ancient Egypt, and I snapped this book up when I saw it. I really wanted it to be something that blew me away. Instead I finished the book feeling deflated. I wish Michelle Moran the best of luck with her future endeavours, as she seems genuinely interested in her subject, but I hope to see her develop more as an author and her novels improve. Until then, I'll be picking her books up from the library. For anyone looking for a gripping, complex plot with high quality writing and subtle characterisations - and decent historical accuracy to boot - I recommend Pauline Gedge instead.

3 out of 10
Profile Image for Maureen.
346 reviews83 followers
January 18, 2022
Nefertari, the forgotten princess is the nice of Queen Nefertiti. Because her family were branded heretics, Nefertari struggles to find her place in the ancient world.
Michelle Moran weaves an interesting tale of the Nineteenth Dynasty. Much research into this story with little historical facts was done.

"In ancient Egypt, a forgotten princess must overcome her family's past and remake history"

Nefertari is left an orphan as her mother died in childbirth, her remaining family died in a tragic fire.
Nefertari is left to run wild in the palace. She and Ramesses become friends.
Ramesses must take a wife. Nefertari hopes that he chooses her. He chooses Iset from the advice of his family. Nefertari is devastated. Eventually Ramesses comes to his senses and also marries Nefertari.
She becomes his Warrior Queen and helps him in battles. Ramesses must choice a chief wife and make her his Queen. Who will he choose? He need an heir.

This book is beautifully written and transports you back to Ancient Egypt It is part history and part fiction, with romance thrown in.
I loved the historical notes in the back of the book about how the author wrote this book.
Another fantastic historical fiction novel.
Profile Image for Teodora Paslaru.
243 reviews18 followers
October 6, 2019
I struggled how to rate this book. In the end I opted for 4.5* rounded at 5 because a book that keeps me as entertained as it did deserved it, even if there were some issues.

I must confess, after the first few pages I wanted to put this book down and never pick it up again. I'm glad I didn't. I suppose it happened because at first I was under the impression this book is solely a romance, and the romance aspect of this book was the worst part of it. Nothing seemed natural, the chemistry between characters was weak, and at the beginning, it seemed to be like nothing more than a fight between two girls for whom would capture the heart of the prince. The fact that the main character was not yet fourteen didn't help to warm me up to this book. Nor the fact that Nefertari was painted as smart while Iset, her rival as extremely ignorant.

Luckily, it was not about that. It was about a girl's fight for her place in history. And as soon as she left for the temple of Hathor to begin her learning, things started to get interesting. In the end, it proved to be a book full of court politics and intrigue, where all characters had their own secret agenda and their own hidden desires. Even if at the beginning I didn't care about Nefertari and her love, I began invested in her struggles as the book progressed. She was no longer a princess with a love that didn't even made much sense, but a girl fighting to clean her family name, wrongfully accused, someone looking for her rightfully place in the pyramid of things.

But more important than what this book was about is the fact that it managed to keep me engaged, to have me turning page after page, to make me return to it in every free moment I could find. I doesn't matter that there are still things I don't agree with (a reader doesn't have to agree to everything a writer proposes to like their book), not when those things are not the major plot points of this book. And speaking of those, there were many unexpected turns.

I don't know how this book would be received by fans of Egypt's history, by those who know the facts very well, because I'm not one of them. But for me, who knew almost nothing about that era, it seemed like a good beginning to learn something. And accurate or not, the author managed to create an exciting mix.
Profile Image for Annie.
Author 2 books104 followers
October 25, 2020
Soak it up - this is entertainment at its best! Michelle Moran's second novel is an enthralling read that will have you frantically turning pages, completely absorbed in the world she has created for you.

Moran's Egypt is a backdrop for all the guilty pleasure plot points you know you love - sex, power, violence and true love. And her cast of characters are fabulously self-serving and deceitful in a way that makes you keep reading just to find out what they will do to each other next. Some are motivated by love, others by greed, but all are capable of doing anything and that makes it all the more exciting!

If you fell in love with Mutny from Moran's previous novel then I guarantee you'll love her orphaned daughter Nefertari. You'll see the resemblance to her mother in her kind heart and strong moral code but Nefertari's love for Rameses has also exposed some of her Aunt's calculated ambition too. She's a woman unafraid to fight for the one she loves and she's in for the battle of her life. Nefertari is the kind of character you cheer for from young girl to grown woman.

Whilst this book is so entertaining, the research is a large element of this novel and I trust that her interpretation of this story is grounded in the facts we know about this time period and these rulers. Check out her blog, History Buff, if you want to see an example of her passion for Archaeology in action.

Her books have awakened in me a dormant passion for Egyptian history and I now find myself wishing she had more stories to tell me. Hopefully I don't have to wait long for Cleopatra's Daughter to come out!

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Profile Image for Michelle.
161 reviews1 follower
December 1, 2009
Maybe more like a 3.75 out of 5. The author does a good job of capturing what we know from the archeaological record about the culture and lifestyle of ancient Egypt and the 19th dynasty. And the book certainly peaks my interest in the relationship between Ramesses II and Nefertari, whose love was well-documented in poetry and on the walls of monuments and shrines. The basic plot involves the rise of Nefertari -- an outcast princess shunned because of her relationship to Nefertiti -- to the throne and the complicated court politics she has to navigate.

For some reason, parts of the novel didn't feel flushed out enough for me, and other parts seemed overly dwelt on. Her childhood and "preening" to become the perfect woman for Ramesses got a little old. The fact that he was so two dimensional as to completely fall for her caterpillar-to-butterfly routine was a little trite. Then again, they were teenagers, so maybe it's realistic that their love life was so simple.

Overall, it was engaging and I read it in only a few sittings. I will definitely read her first book about Nefertiti.
Profile Image for Colleen.
655 reviews49 followers
March 12, 2009
Awful, awful, awful. This ranks way up on my list of Worst Books Ever Written. The author didn't know if she was supposed to be writing historical fiction, soft-core (and very unerotic) porn, or chick lit (with all the name-calling and backstabbing and gossiping). There wasn't a single sympathetic character in the bunch, and I especially hated her depiction of Ramesses. Here's a guy who's supposedly head-over-heels in love with Nefertari and he can clearly see what an amazing diplomat she is, and yet it takes him, what, two or three years to finally decide to make her his chief wife? Even if this is how events actually progressed, the author certainly didn't go to any lengths to make us understand the reasoning behind their actions. They were all drab, lifeless caricatures. Not recommended at all.

PS...Bad writers evidently stick together. I just saw a glowing review of this book by Susan Fraser King, the author of the equally odious Lady Macbeth, on Amazon's website. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21...
Profile Image for Misha.
395 reviews678 followers
August 24, 2010
I love historical fiction, especially reading about women rulers. Though I am mostly addicted to reading about the Tudors, I wanted to read something different.
The Heretic Queen is the first Michelle Moran novel I read. Looking at her other books, Michelle seems to have a penchant for Egyptian women rulers.
The Heretic Queen focuses on one of the lesser known queens of Egypt, Nefertari, who was Queen Nefertiti's niece . She is called "The Heretic Queen" since Nefertiti had abandoned the Gods Egyptians worshiped and instead had turned to a single God, something which was never accepted by the people.
Nefertari's childhood friend, Ramesses II is made Pharaoh. Her future is uncertain and bleak. She fears being forgotten and left to a life of a lonely temple Priestess. This is when Wosertit, Ramesses' aunt takes Nefertari under her wing. She hopes to make Nefertari ,Ramesses' Chief wife. Consequently, dramatic events unfold, that play a defining role in Egyptian history.
Egypt and its rulers have always fascinated me. Research into this novel must have taken a lot of time and effort. I admire Michelle more for that. Her efforts show in the intricate way everything has been described - the politics, traditions, rules, the clothes, the celebrations, the art, the architecture, religion and so on.
Though The Heretic Queen is not completely based on true events, it really doesn't matter because it makes the book more intriguing.
Nefertari was a very likeable character. You can't help sympathizing with her. She is caring, intelligent, brave , strong and determined.
This book is very well-written. The plot was gripping from the first page itself. Every character was well-defined. Lots of drama, action and many tense moments will keep you enthralled.
The court intrigue, the politics and the scheming have been vividly described. Michelle makes ancient Egypt come alive in front of our eyes.I could imagine everything she described, I could feel, see, smell, ancient Egypt.
I am looking forward to reading her other novels.
Compelling and engrossing!
Yes ! To all fans of historical fiction.
Profile Image for Katie.
2,712 reviews142 followers
October 31, 2017
I saw a short film on the discovery of Ramesses's tomb on vacation and of course I was intrigued by the mention of the love story and wasted MORE. (I've also been meaning to read Moran forever.)

This didn't totally scratch the itch because it's more about Nefertari's quest to become Chief Wife. I really wish more time had been focused on her and Ramesses's relationship, especially the transformation from childhood friends to lovers. It came very close to just "oh look, she got hot." And at times it was like we were supposed to be a little unsure of Ramesses's feelings, which didn't work for me at all, considering we know he loved her very much.

Oh well, put it on the list with Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon as a historical love story that someone needs to write a perfect book about.
Profile Image for Nikki.
1,736 reviews70 followers
May 1, 2015
I was not very impressed with Nefertiti and the follow-up book The Heretic Queen disappointed me even more. While the first half of Nefertiti was largely disappointing, The Heretic Queen suffered from it from start to finish. This novel suffered terribly from first-person point of view. Nefertiti was also first-person but it was Nefertiti's sister, which gave some much-needed distance.

First of all the book, much like it's counterpart Nefertiti, did not capture the essence of Ancient Egypt. Sure you can use Egyptian words and talk about customs but there was too much telling and not enough showing. Remove the few Egyptian words, mentions of cities etc. and you could easily be confused by where in time you find yourself and what family is experiencing so much drama. Actual historical events may have helped the book but they were largely left to the last quarter of the book and felt forced.

Overall the focus of the book is not historical in nature but romantic in nature, not exactly what you think you are getting yourself into. The book is one long-suffering love affair. It begins with Nefertari pining over Ramesses, then spending a year grooming herself to attract him and then getting him and being upset about not being named Chief Wife. Oh the drama. It felt like a lowly version of The Other Boleyn Girl, except ALL the focus is on the whining and pining and baby making. The book focuses on two sets of women, Nefertari and her "groomer" and Iset and her "groomer". The groomers happen to be sisters, upping the drama. The book is one long cat fight that I just did not want to "watch". Palace intrigue does not equal historical fiction unless you really back it up Moran.

The characters are also one-dimensional and much too obsessed with child bearing. I was very tired of them saying things like "what woman does NOT want a child?!?!" like it was the worst conceivable idea. On the child note, the book largely felt like a YA novel but then BAM you would be reading a sex scene. An awkward feeling sex scene leaving you wondering what the hell just happened after each time. Ramesses is simply the male place-holder and love object rather than a famous Egyptian Pharaoh. The entire book felt demeaning to women and men AND history.

If you are looking for palace intrigue, romance and little depth then you may enjoy The Heretic Queen. However, if you are looking for well-written historical fiction that actually focuses on history you will not find it here. As shown by the historical note, Moran took a lot of liberty with the history of the time and could hardly be considered accurate. Ancient Egypt simply suffers at the hand of Moran and I think it is best they stay separated.
Profile Image for Carey.
97 reviews84 followers
September 21, 2008
Some would call the Pharaoh Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti visionaries. They ended the polytheistic religion of Egypt and destroyed the greedy and corrupt temples of Amun. They instituted a revolutionary monotheistic system, worshipping one God, the Aten. Unfortunately, thousands of years of religious belief could not be erased so easily. Their reign ended in disaster and the old religious order was restored, ending a line of kings stretching back over a hundred years.

Michelle Moran starts this novel several years after the events of her first novel, Nefertiti. The sole survivor from the previous royal line is Princess Nefertari, niece of Nefertiti. She has been raised at the court of the current Pharaoh, Seti I, and alongside the royal heir, Ramesses. They are fast friends. In fact, he is one of her only friends and the only reason the other children tolerate her. She is the victim of the backlash of hatred against her deceased family. She is called 'heretic' and worse and is blamed for the actions of her relatives.

As they grow up, the close friendship of Nefertari and Ramesses blossoms into love. But few at court want Nefertari as Egypt's queen and her enemies try to turn the people against her, too. Fortunately for Nefertari, she is a gifted woman. She has an affinity for language and is able to learn the political intricacies of the court. She has brains and courage. Her journey to the throne of Egypt is breathtaking.

The author has vividly recreated the stunning courts and palaces of Ancient Egypt. Her imagining of the life of Queen Nefertari and the Pharaoh who will be known to history as Ramesses the Great makes for an engrossing and fascinating historical novel. I particularly liked the inclusion of the Egyptian calendar at the end of the book, the first of these that I have seen. I have read quite a lot of historical fiction set in Ancient Egypt and have always wondered how their calendar of seasons corresponds to our own.

I loved The Heretic Queen and impatiently await Ms. Moran's next book, Cleopatra's Daughter.
Profile Image for Rebecca Huston.
1,061 reviews159 followers
July 19, 2012
I had thought Nefertiti was bad. I didn't think that it couldn't get worse. It did. This fluffy, stupid, tale of Rameses II's great love, Nefertari, is reduced into a tawdry romance full of plotting priests, high-heeled sandals, tolling bells, never ending meals of pomegranate sauced ducks, and other improbabilities. Nefertari is supposedly the niece of Queen Nefertiti, and goes through the novel fearing that someone is gonna find out. Right. And she wants to find out the truth of her 'murdered' mother Queen Mutnodjmet -- never mind what really happened -- and mooning about. Yawn. I loathe crap like this, and cringe every time that someone tells me that I need to read it. I did. Once. And never, ever again. Bad research, lots of anachronisms, and a plot that is ridiculous. Not recommended at all, and a definite wall-banger.

For the longer review, please go here:
Profile Image for Margaret Chind.
3,168 reviews218 followers
January 27, 2016

Originally posted on Creative Madness Mama.

*This post has been updated with my new format as of January 27, 2016
with the Ultimate Book Blogger Plugin.*
The Heretic Queen book review
Oh, what a novel! I wish it had not come to an end. Every time I picked up the book to settle in for a read, I was swept into the world of Egypt with Pharaoh's and Warrior Queen's. I was impressed by Nefertiti, Michelle Moran's debut, but The Heretic Queen surpasses my admiration by far.

Our story is told from a first person perspective straight from the mouth of Nefertari, beloved of Ramesses, and Warrior Queen of Egypt. From a child to a woman, as a reader you get to hold onto her tale. I giggled with her, and I became enraged at her enemies. I felt empathy for her situations and I praised her for her morality and decisions for love instead of revenge.

Nefertari is one for the heart, she has gone in and is there to stay. I wish her story could continue, because I would just love to soak in more. Michelle has truly a winner on her hands here. It is one of those books that I doubt I will lend, because I just want to read it again (sorry, go buy your own!). It makes me think about so many things. Although, I do believe it is a fabulous novel and can be fully enjoyed on it's own, it does make me desire to go back and re-read Nefertiti, because I have know realized things that I have missed.

Nefertiti and her Pharaoh left a legacy that was difficult if not impossible to follow for our dear Nefertari, but in this novel she is shown as a masterful work of beauty. She overcomes the "sins of her fathers" and moves beyond. So many elements of historical value are found within these pages that I want to buy a textbook or book a plane trip to learn more. Michelle gives you just a taste and it is the teaser of the mind. She is an author to watch and look forward to for more, that can know go without having to be said.

I cannot wait for Cleopatra's Daughter next year!

View all my reviews.

Nefertiti Review from the Egyptian Royals Collection on Creative Madness Mama Cleopatra's Daughter Review of the Egyptian Royals Collection on Creative Madness Mama Crown Broadway Review of Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran on Creative Madness Mama Crown Broadway Review The Second Empress a novel of Napoleon's Court Rebel Queen The Last Queen of India book review on Creative Madness Mama and guest post by Michelle Moran
This review was originally posted on Creative Madness Mama.
Profile Image for C.W..
Author 16 books2,326 followers
October 15, 2008
This is a well-paced, beautifully drawn and compelling look at the neice of the heretic queen Nefertiti; orphaned and relegated to a minor role at court, the young Nefertari's struggle to overcome the shadows of her past and win the right to become queen, won her the heart of Pharoah Ramseess and the adoration of Egypt.
Profile Image for Lois .
1,863 reviews477 followers
April 17, 2009
LOVED it different set up than Nefertiti which had a very similar set-up to The Other Boleyn girl, but I actually liked the balance of the characters in this novel better.
Profile Image for Debbi.
348 reviews89 followers
May 10, 2022
3.5* rounded up. An entertaining, conventional historical novel. While there were few surprises, it worked well as a palette cleanser for me. It reminds me of a time when I gobbled up historical novels like candy.
Profile Image for Lau .
659 reviews127 followers
October 4, 2019

Si hay algo que me salió completamente por casualidad fue leer este libro después de Nefertiti. No son una serie/saga, aunque bien podrían serlo. En este libro la protagonista y narradora es la hija de Mutni, la narradora de Nefertiti.
En La reina hereje nos enteramos de algo que le ocurrió a Mutni que hizo que realmente agradezca haberlos leído en este orden. Y por cierto, necesito comentarlo para poder hablar de la historia, así que si tienen planeado leer Nefertiti ¡paren de leer!

Nefertari es una princesa egipcia que vive con el estigma de ser sobrina de la 'hereje' Nefertiti. Ella y su marido, el faraón Akenatón, habían decretado eliminar a todos los dioses egipcios para venerar a un solo Dios, Atón. Cuando el reinado de Akenatón llegó a su fin, los antiguos dioses fueron restaurados y toda mención del reinado de los herejes borrada de la historia.
Nefertari es la hija de Mut-Najmat, la hermana de Nefertiti, y es el último miembro de su familia que sigue con vida (la pobre Mutni murió de una forma horrible y ahora está condenada al olvido).
Es por eso que su posición en el palacio es bastante precaria, a pesar de contar con el cariño del faraón y de su hijo, Ramsés II, con quien fueron compañeros de juegos desde muy chicos.

Nefertari, culta e inteligente, con tan sólo 13 años deberá abrir los ojos a la política y las intrigas y con la ayuda y guía de Woserit, suma sacerdotiza del templo de Hathor, se irá cultivando y aprendiendo todo lo necesario para lograr su mayor objetivo: casarse con Ramsés y llegar a ser Gran Reina de Egipto.
La gran enemiga de Nefertari es Henutmire, la supersticiosa suma sacerdotiza del templo de Isis. Se la define mucho como una víbora y eso es efectivamente lo que es. Nunca se sabrá qué nuevos planes tiene la muy traicionera, y su modo de manipular a Iset, la primer esposa de Ramsés, hizo que sintiera desagrado y pena a la vez por la chica.
Y luego está el  "problemita" de que la gente de Egipto la odia. Por considerarla de familia hereje le atribuyen ser la causa de una sequía que está asolando al país desde hace cuatro años... así que por si no fuera poco tener que ganar una posición en la corte y conquistar a un faraón, tiene que ganarse el amor de todo un pueblo.

- Egipto maldice el nombre de mi tía.
- No mientras estuvo viva. Ella sabía cómo controlar a los visires, cuándo era provechoso hablar, qué amistades era conveniente cultivar. Pero… ¿estás dispuesta a aprender todas esas cosas? Me hundí en la silla.
- ¿Y volverme como la reina hereje?
- Y transformarte en una jugadora viable en esta partida de senet

Nuevamente (como ocurrió con el libro Nefertiti) la narración comienza siendo mas bien inocente y juvenil, pero como Nefertari se ve obligada a madurar de repente muy pronto el libro se vuelve adulto. Ella me recordó un poco a Mutni en ciertos aspectos de su forma de ser (al menos durante la infancia) lo que es muy probable que sea intencional.
La relación entre Nefertari y Ramsés me encantó, especialmente si se compara a quien sería llamado Ramsés el Grande con la personalidad horrorosa de Akenatón, el esposo de Nefertiti.
También me hubiera gustado más ver un poco más de Asha, un muy lindo personaje al que no se aprovechó demasiado.

Es un libro en el que ocurren muchas cosas en poco tiempo, y en otros momentos se dan saltos en el tiempo que luego se resumen en pocos párrafos. Está escrito de una forma completamente atrapante, y si bien la autora -dicho por ella misma- se tomó unas cuantas licencias con la historia real y rellenó los baches que se desconocen con un buen uso de su imaginación.
Me encanta como escribe Michelle Moran.

Reseña de Libros junto al mar
Profile Image for Ariana Fae.
143 reviews24 followers
February 10, 2017
The HERETIC QUEEN at its heart is a love story told from the view point of Nefertari. It is also a tale about two queens vying of the heart of Pharaoh Ramesses and who will be his ruling queen.

Michelle Moran does a wonderful job of transporting the reader to the intricacies of ancient Egypt, with its court politics, palaces, and the way royalty lived. I did find it slow in the beginning but it still held my interest enough to keep reading on. Nefertari is a sympathetic character who was smart, determined, honest, yet naive at times and passionate about what she wanted, I couldn't help but root for her and hope she was successful.

The HERETIC QUEEN is an interesting story of a princess’ rise to power and coming of age story. If you enjoy ancient Egyptian history, especially one that deals with strong women, then I think you will enjoy this book.

Profile Image for Kathryn.
846 reviews
December 15, 2015
3.5 stars
When I first started this book, I initially thought I’d already read a bit too much about Ancient Egypt, having just finished The Visitors, but I think this was just a slow start. Once I got into it, I quite enjoyed it. I did feel that at times it seemed a bit too contemporary in the way people spoke, and while I don’t suppose we have very much to go on to know just how the ancient Egyptians spoke, and if we did have the information, it mightn’t be the easiest to read (even old English is challenging), but it just seemed like it was one step too contemporary for me.

Still an interesting read.
Profile Image for Heidi.
1,235 reviews144 followers
July 31, 2009
I'm on a historical fiction kick, so this book fits right in with my present reading mood. Moran makes reading history fairly painless, however, sometimes I'm guessing it's a little too painless if you're seriously versed in Egyptian history.

This is a follow up to her Nefertiti book, which I enjoyed more. And I would recommend reading her first before picking this one up-- it's slightly better written and sets the scene for The Heretic Queen.

Profile Image for Alisha.
800 reviews
December 2, 2010
I just wasn't that impressed. Nefer wasn't a strong female to me and their "romance" was incredibly unrealistic to me. Character development was really lacking and I didn't like any of her characters. I doubt I'll read anything else by this author.

Profile Image for Georgiana 1792.
1,913 reviews118 followers
March 26, 2021
Una biografia in forma romanzata - narrata in prima persona - di Nefertari, dalla più tenera età fino al giorno in cui viene nominata dal marito, il Faraone Ramses II, regina. Nefertari era infatti la sua seconda moglie, e pur essendo amatissima da Ramses, lui tentennò a concederle fin da subito il titolo. In molti avrebbero preferito, infatti, che lui nominasse sua regina la prima moglie, Iset, anche perché Nefertari aveva un nome che faceva ripensare a sua zia Nefertiti, la regina eretica, che con il marito Akhenaton cercò di portare l'Egitto verso la religione enoteistica - che prevedeva, cioè, la preminenza di un dio (Aton) su tutti gli altri - sconvolgendo per un ventennio circa la storia egizia.
In principio, il popolo quando la vedeva mormorava che lei era una regina eretica, che avrebbe portato alla rovina il regno di Ramses II. La sua grande intelligenza, il suo coraggio nel voler stare sempre al fianco di Ramses e la conoscenza di quasi tutte le lingue parlate nel mondo allora conosciuto, le consentirono comunque di surclassare Iset. E comunque Ramses la amava più di quanto amasse la sua prima sposa, e solo solenni promesse e intrighi di corte gli impedirono di nominarla fin da subito dopo le nozze sua regina.
Si tratta di una storia molto romanzata, in pratica quasi un romance autocelebrativo, visto che la narratrice è la stessa Nefertari. Comunque ho trovato la lettura gradevole, visto che mi aspettavo di molto peggio.
Profile Image for Audrey.
1,445 reviews70 followers
July 29, 2023
As the niece of Queen Nefertiti, Nefertari has a difficult road ahead. Since Nefertiti was married to the Heretic King, Nefertari has to prove that she is nothing like her. The people are reluctant to accept her because of her family's past. However, Nefertari is determined to make her herself useful to King Ramesses. Fortunately, he loves her very much. When she decides to go to war beside her husband, the people can finally accept her as their Warrior Queen
Profile Image for Ashleigh Gunty.
16 reviews2 followers
November 22, 2021
More romantic than the first one, but also more detailed in the religious aspect of the daily lives of ancient Egyptians as a bonus also included is a glossary at the back which I think should have also been included in the book Nefertiti
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