The Pharaoh’s Daughter

Written by Mesu Andrews
Review by Michael I. Shoop

The character many may know as Bithiah from the film The Ten Commandments gets her own story in Andrews’ latest novel. She is born Meryetaten-tasherit, a daughter of Pharaoh Akhenaten of Egypt. Traumatized by witnessing her mother’s death in giving birth to a stillborn son, Mery is adopted, along with her sister Ankhe, by powerful General Horemheb and called Anippe. Eventually married off to the honorable Sebak, a Ramessid captain in her brother King Tut’s army, she moves to an estate in the Delta, and seeks a way to avoid the danger of pregnancy and still give her husband an heir. When Pharaoh decrees that all Hebrew infant boys must be drowned, and Anippe discovers a baby floating on the Nile in a basket, she sees her opportunity. But at what cost?

As the years pass, constantly shifting politics, warring factions, and several nasty characters create tense moments for Anippe and her son Mehy, also known by Anippe’s handmaid Miriam as Moses. After Sebak is killed during a mission, other horrors occur at the new Pharaoh’s celebratory banquet, and Anippe finds her life in peril when her deception is discovered and more brutal violence is triggered. Aided by friends, she disappears into a new life as the wife of the chief Hebrew linen keeper, Mered, and is renamed Bithiah. But what further plan does the Hebrew god El-Shaddai have in store for her and for Mehy/Moses?

Andrews grounds her story in the Biblical tradition and in the historical record and creates well-drawn, interesting characters. She excels in her descriptions of the magnificence of the Egyptian court and the abject poverty of the Hebrew slaves, never flinching from portraying the cruelty, violence, and bloodshed that overshadowed ancient Egyptian society.