Monday, May 5, 2014

Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt by Stephanie Thornton

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Read: May 4, 2014

Egypt, 1400s BC. The pharaoh’s pampered second daughter, lively, intelligent Hatshepsut, delights in racing her chariot through the marketplace and testing her archery skills in the Nile’s marshlands. But the death of her elder sister, Neferubity, in a gruesome accident arising from Hatshepsut’s games forces her to confront her guilt...and sets her on a profoundly changed course. Hatshepsut enters a loveless marriage with her half brother, Thut, to secure his claim to the Horus Throne and produce a male heir. But it is another of Thut’s wives, the commoner Aset, who bears him a son, while Hatshepsut develops a searing attraction for his brilliant adviser Senenmut. And when Thut suddenly dies, Hatshepsut becomes de facto ruler, as regent to her two-year-old nephew. Once, Hatshepsut anticipated being free to live and love as she chose. Now she must put Egypt first. Ever daring, she will lead a vast army and build great temples, but always she will be torn between the demands of leadership and the desires of her heart. And even as she makes her boldest move of all, her enemies will plot her downfall...

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Hatshepsut. Indurated limestone sculpture at
the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.
Image by 
Hatshepsut. Daughter of Thutmose I, wife of Thutmose II, fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty, and the longest serving indigenous queen of Ancient Egypt. All things considered it's not hard to imagine what drew author Stephanie Thornton to this enigmatic ruler, nor what prompted her to fictionalize her story in Daughter of the Gods.

Now, I adored Thornton's The Secret History, but contrary to what you might think, that is not a blessing. I am not one of those who finds an author I enjoy and promptly gives a five star rating to every book they release. Quite opposite in fact, I shamelessly hold five star authors to a higher standard. Bottom line, they've impressed me once and I expect them to maintain that measure of excellence. 

The obvious question here is did Thornton succeed? Did she give me a heroine who can stand beside Theodora? Someone who is equally compelling, but uniquely different? Someone with her own motivations, personality, strengths and weaknesses? Did Hatshepsut’s Egypt come to life with a singular rhythm and flavor or was it only a facsimile of Theodora's Constantinople? Does Hatshepsut’s love affair with Senenmut bear too much resemblance Theodora's relationship with Justinian or does it burn with a fire and passion of its own? These are the questions that plagued me going into this novel, but looking back, I can honestly say I've no complaints. 

Hatshepsut was equated to a God while she walked the earth, but Thornton doesn't bother herself with that legacy. On the contrary, she strips it away, giving her audience a realistic interpretation of a woman whose ambition earned her prominence and prestige. Her characterization is at times jealous, guilt-ridden, stubborn, selfish and resentful, but from that she cultivates a fortitude that one cannot help but commend, a tenacious intensity that transcends print and sparks the imagination. 

Thornton's deep appreciation for Hatshepsut’s cultural heritage is evident in every aspect of the book. Meticulously researched the text is saturated with historic detail, but that said, Thornton never allows fact to overwhelm the narrative. Enhancing the text, she treats it like a garnish, creating depth and dimension through the complementary application of truth.

At this point I think it obvious how much I appreciate the time I spent reading Daughter of the Gods, but my favorite aspect of Thornton's work cannot be seen in this novel alone. Theodora, Hatshepsut, Borte, Alaqai, Fatima, Sorkhokhtani... these are women who were meant to ornament ancient courts, not direct them. Through fiction, Thornton is exploring history from the perspective of those who defied convention to make it. As an author, she is highlighting women who bore the responsibility of leadership with courage and persistence rather than raw sexuality and that thesis is something I both applaud and deeply admire. 

Freshly original, Daughter of the Gods is both genuine and authentic, alive with the culture of Ancient Egypt, enriched with vibrant emotion, and augmented with irresistible intrigue. In sum it is an addictively enticing fiction that is impossible to put down. 

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A future without responsibility, a future of doing as she pleased when she pleased: such was the life Hatshepsut had envisioned for herself. Yet that life had been buried along with Neferubity in her tomb. 
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Check out all the stops on Stephanie Thornton's Daughter of the Gods virtual book tour schedule!

Monday, April 28
Review at Unabridged Chick
Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, April 29
Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, April 30
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Thursday, May 1
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Friday, May 2
Review & Giveaway at HF Book Muse – News
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Monday, May 5
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Guest Post & Giveaway at HF Connection
Tuesday, May 6
Interview & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, May 7
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Review & Giveaway at Confessions of an Avid Reader
Thursday, May 8
Interview & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Friday, May 9
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Monday, May 12
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Tuesday, May 13
Review at The Mad Reviewer
Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court
Wednesday, May 14
Review at A Bookish Libraria
Thursday, May 15
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review & Giveaway at The Lit Bitch
Friday, May 16
Review at She is Too Fond of Books
Monday, May 19
Review at Tower of Babel
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Tuesday, May 20
Review at A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, May 21
Review at Manga Maniac Cafe
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict
Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Thursday, May 22
Review at The Most Happy Reader
Review & Giveaway at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Friday, May 23
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Interview & Giveaway at The Most Happy Reader

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for hosting Stephanie's Blog Tour, Erin! Loved your review and can't wait to devour my own copy.