The Heretic Queen
As the sole survivor of the line of Nefertiti, a family denounced as heretics and erased from history, Princess Nefertari has grown up an outcast, tolerated only because of her childhood friendship with Prince Ramesses. At seventeen Ramesses becomes Pharaoh and takes a beautiful but spoiled girl for his bride, and Nefertari’s safety ends. Her aunt determines to have Ramesses marry Nefertari as well, both to secure the girl’s future and to further her own interests. Nefertari, who has always been infatuated with the prince, changes from a precocious tomboy to an alluring young woman, and Ramesses is easily smitten. But becoming Pharaoh’s wife is not enough; Nefertari must be named his queen and bear his heir before the court will accept her. In her way are palace enemies, a rival wife, foreign wars, and an Egyptian people who regard her as the descendent of heretics.
The author takes liberties with the gray areas of history in order to make her plotlines possible. Some will enjoy the fictional weaving; others may find it stretches the suspension of disbelief. As both protagonist and narrator of the story, Nefertari enjoys the luxury of always being in the right place at the right time with just the right piece of information; despite this she is a somewhat passive character, manipulated by others and waiting for fate. The jealousy between the two wives is unflattering to her, and even less so to Ramesses, who comes off looking rather shallow and whipped. The multiple subplots are woven together well, and the historical detail is rich and accessible, but more layered characters would have increased the story’s grip. If you enjoyed Moran’s first novel, Nefertiti, you will find The Heretic Queen a comparable sequel.