Sphinx's Princess

by Esther Friesner

Reviewed by Margaret Donsbach

Sphinx's Princess by Esther Friesner The famously beautiful queen of ancient Egypt, Nefertiti, is the main character in Sphinx's Princess. First in a series, this novel imagines her life from childhood into her early teens. Historians know very little for certain about Nefertiti, except that she was the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten, who ordered polytheism abolished and worshipped Aten, the Egyptian sun god, as the only god. Egyptian wall carvings show Nefertiti smiting enemies, suggesting she exercised more power than the usual Egyptian queen.

In the novel, Nefertiti is a smart, courageous girl with a compassionate heart. Her father has forbidden her to learn to read, but she secretly defies him. Still, she is happy at home and doesn't want to leave when the pharaoh's power-hungry First Royal Wife demands that she come to Thebes as the future wife of the pharaoh's heir. As strong-willed as her royal aunt, Nefertiti only agrees to go in order to protect her family. Her strong will puts her in terrible danger in a royal household full of jealous, spiteful, powerful people, but it also protects her from despair when someone less spirited might give up.

Life in ancient Egypt was extremely different from life in any modern culture. The well-researched setting in Sphinx's Princess makes it as fascinating as any fantasy kingdom. The story has the simplicity of a television show, with messages that may seem a little too obvious for readers who like more thematic complexity, but may be just right for readers who watch a lot of television. A note of suspense at the end looks ahead to the challenges in the sequel, Sphinx's Queen. (2009; 370 pages)

More about Sphinx's Princess at Powell's Books or Amazon.com

Other novels for young readers set in ancient Egypt:

Cleopatra, Daughter of the Nile by Kristiana Gregory (1999), a novel in the form of a diary kept by twelve-year-old Cleopatra after her father goes into hiding because of threats against his life, which may also endanger her. More info

A Place in the Sun by Jill Rubalcaba (1997), about a boy with artistic talent who, at the age of nine, is sentenced to spend the rest of his life at hard labor in the gold mines of Nubia. More info

His Majesty, Queen Hatshepsut by Dorothy Sharp Carter (1987), about the thirteen-year-old Egyptian princess Hatshepsut, who will grow up to rule as king in ancient Egypt. More info

Nonfiction about ancient Egypt:

Women of Ancient Egypt by Anne Wallace Sharp (2005), for teens. More info

The Ancient Egyptians by Lila Perl (2004), for preteens. More info

A Visitor's Guide to Ancient Egypt by Lesley Sims (2001), for teens. More info


Nefertiti at the King Tut One website

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