Random House, 347 pages
"Ancient Egypt springs to life in this enthralling sequel to Sphinx’s Princess. As she did in Nobody’s Princess and Nobody’s Prize, author Esther Friesner offers readers a fresh look at an iconic figure, blending historical fiction and mythology in a heady concoction. Hunted... Overnight, every aspect of Nefertiti’s life has changed. She is no longer living at the royal palace as the intended bride of the crown prince. Instead, she is being chased by the prince and his soldiers for a crime she did not commit. Hidden... Traveling with two of her dearest friends, including the crown prince’s brother, who helped her escape, Nefertiti takes shelter in the wild hills along the Nile’s west bank. She must rely on her own resourcefulness and skills (all those secret archery lessons prove very useful) as the fugitives fight to survive. Haunted... But the need for justice gnaws at Nefertiti. She is determined to plead her case to the Pharaoh and set things right. As she begins to question long-held sacred beliefs - a questioning that could alter the fabric of Egyptian society - her extraordinary journey from commoner to royalty brings adventure, intrigue, and romance."
Sphinx's Queen is by far Esther Friesner's best work to date, in my opinion. I was blown away by how fabulous this book was. Friesner effortlessly made Nefertiti, ancient Egyptian royalty, a woman with modern ideas that made her a strong woman. I absolutely loved reading her story, and I couldn't wait to see how admirably and honorably Nefertiti would handle a situation that was clearly far out of her control.
Even though I enjoyed Helen of Troy's story in Friesner's Nobody's Princess and Nobody's Prize, Nefertiti clearly surpassed Helen. Even the Nefertiti of Sphinx's Princess is trumped by her older self in Sphinx's Queen. I loved watching Nefertiti transition into becoming a strong independent woman that knows when to take the high road and simply forgive people of their actions. Although this can be perceived as weakness, I think it really shows a person's strength if they are able to move on through forgiveness. But, it must be made clear that Nefertiti is not a push over by any means.
I loved reading a book that focused on ancient royalty that wasn't euro-centric. It simply was a breath of fresh air to read about something new. I personally haven't read many, if any, books with an ancient Egyptian setting. It was very fascinating to read about descriptions of Egyptian lifestyles and to hear all about the different Egyptian gods and goddesses (Speaking of, I now realize I should get a move on with Rick Riordan's Kane Chronicles! :D)
Of course, we have of the court intrigue that comes with palace life in any culture! Backstabbing, plots, and rumors are abound in the Pharoah's court, and a majority of the plots stem from Nefertiti's Aunt Tiye. What makes everything so fascinating is that all of the characters are incredibly complex. While Pharoah Amenhotep, Tiye, Thutmose, and Amenophis appear to be one happy family to the outsiders, it couldn't be further from the truth. By the end of the book, all of the characters eventually show their true colors.
Esther Friesner's last line in the author's note resonates through the entire book and is inspiration for all women: "Above all, we can remember that she [Nefertiti] was much more than just another pretty face."
Rating: 4 stars - I really liked it. Worth buying.