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“Someday,” said the tribute-offering called Nofret, “I shall be the chief of the queen’s servants. Then I can call myself whatever I please.”
Nofret is the daughter of a Hittite nobleman, captured by enemies from Mitanni and sent as tribute to the Pharaoh in Egypt: the strange, otherworldly Akhenaten, who rules from his raw new city of Amarna. As servant to his daughter, she witnesses the rise and fall of Akhenaten and his one god, the lives and deaths of his queen and his heirs, and the brief reign of Tutankhamon. Then, freed at last from Egypt, she embarks on a years-long journey into the desert oases of Sinai, and there finds love and family.
But Egypt is not done with her. Her husband’s people are still enslaved, and a prophet has risen with a mission from his one god: to set them free. Though Nofret does not share his faith, duty and loyalty inspire her to follow him, and love for the people who have accepted her as one of their own.
With her usual skill, Tarr (Throne of Isis) combines fact and fiction to create yet another remarkably solid historical novel set in ancient Egypt. This narrative is based on an intriguing premise: What if Moses, patriarch of monotheism, and the Pharaoh Akhenaten, who forbade the Egyptians from worshiping any god save the sun god Aten, were one and the same? After all, Akhenaten's body disappeared after his death, and Moses rose to prominence shortly thereafter. The third-person narration sticks close to the point of view of Nofret, a young Hittite slave girl who serves the Pharaoh's third daughter. Nofret is sharp-tongued and honest to a fault, qualities which, surprisingly, are valued by her aristocratic lady. The two women find their orderly lives turned upside down by Akhenaten's obsession with his god and his determination to father a son. After a devastating plague--attributed to Akhenaten's misrule--sweeps through the kingdom, Nofret finds refuge among some Hebrew slaves and makes her way to Sinai; later, although still dubious of his one god, she accompanies Moses/Akhenaten back to Egypt, where he demands that the slaves be freed. The juxtaposition of the Exodus story with the events in the Egyptian court makes for an engrossing saga, and Nofret's shrewd skepticism in the face of such great events lends the tale intimacy. This is a highly entertaining blend of romance, drama and historical detail.