KING AND GODDESS by Judith Tarr

Set in ancient Egypt, this compelling story is a novelization of the true life of Hatshepsut, the famous female Pharoah who dressed and behaved as a man and called herself king. The hero of the book is Senenmut, the queen’s real-life scribe, lover, and tutor to her doomed young daughter Neferure. The story of this brilliant and daring female monarch is told by Senenmut and by Nehsi, the queen’s charismatic Nubian bodyguard.


This book was immensely appealing to me on so many levels. Although the entire story was true, it was told in a very dramatic and personal way that never bogged down for me—-not once. In fact, it was very difficult to put the book down once I started reading it. Particular strengths included Hatshepsut’s motivation for her unconventional decision, and the terrible tension between her and her militaristic heir and nephew Thutmose (who became a famous pharoah himself, and sought feverishly to obliterate all evidence that his aunt had ever ruled). Some historical novels weaken my connection to the story with frequent, multi-year jumps in chronology, as years elapse between chapters. This book avoided that challenge and presented a smooth and continuous narrative. When years passed, it was done so gracefully that I almost didn’t notice. The life-long romance between Senenmut and Hatshepsut was also very poignant.


Tarr has a considerable backlist, including a number of other novels written in ancient Egypt as well as Crusader and fantasy novels, and I definitely want to read them! Two thumbs way up for this book. It’s one of the best historicals I’ve read in a long time.

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