Let’s hear it for strong female protagonists found in books published in 1953!
Mara is a suspiciously well-educated, intelligent, crafty, and (obviously)painfully beautiful slave. She yearns for adventure and freedom.Her command of both the Egyptian and Babylonian languages lands her on an adventure away from traditional enslavement, and out into the royal city of Thebes where she acts as a double agent. On one side, the man who is her current master (through monetary exchange) commands her to become the translator for the Canaanite princess come to marry Thutmose III and spy on Thutmose for the regent Pharoah Hatshepsut. Meanwhile, a friend of Thutmose and royal courtier, Sheftu, thinks Mara is a runaway and blackmails her to the same occupation– only to deliver messages to Thutmose as part of the eventual rebellion against Hatshepsut.
Drama drama drama.
Spies! Intrigue! Plotting! Romance! Gold! Pharoahs! Swashbuckling! Betrayal! Anguish!
But seriously: What a captivating story.
Now, first things first. The history isn’t quite accurate. But, that’s okay. This is historical fiction, right? As long as you can ignore the real events, this is a great story. , regent Queen, ruled Egypt in peace for many years before dying of old age. Yes, she declared herself Pharaoh while Thutmose III had little power. Yes, she built a TON of monuments. But, her reign was prosperous and had many great advancements. She named Thutmose III the general of her armies. But, one day, she died of old age. Then Thutmose III, her stepson, ascended to the throne– where he destroyed all the great monuments she created. Why? ::shrugs:: But he did create the Obelisk of Thutmosis III, which famously stands outside the Hippodrome in Istanbul.
That said– truth, or the lack thereof, does not take away from this story. A lot happens in a small period of time.
Mara encounters many people during her adventures, and I find them all quite intriguing. What made them to intriguing to me was how perspective switched between them all. We really got to understand this plot as it unfolded from many sides. Now, all those sides happened to be the “winning” side, but that’s okay. Either way, it really brought depth to the story. For example, Mara is always scheming to try and maintain her double-agent status. She is constantly complimenting herself on how sneaky she is. However, when we see Mara from another perspective– we learn this isn’t 100% the truth. Inanni, the Canaanite princess Mara acts as interpreter for, notices that Mara is acting suspicious. She knows that something is amiss, and we see Mara for what she really is. Yes, crafty. Yes, smart. But flawed. Which is lovely.
“Sheftu,” she whispered, “it’s all over.”
“Nay, little one. It’s just beginning. Many things are beginning.”
Nothing in this book was particularly surprising to me, but I didn’t mind. There is nothing wrong with predictability in a YA novel. In all honesty, if I had read this book in 1953, when it was published, I’m certain I could have been surprised.
As seems to be a running issue with the books I’ve picked for 2016, my major beef was with the ending.
I recommend this novel to anyone interested in “Spies! Intrigue! Plotting! Romance! Gold! Pharoahs! Swashbuckling! Betrayal! Anguish! ” or just YA historical fiction. So, hopefully, everyone.