Bloggy Sue Book Reviews
Reviewer: Suzy Watts
Apartado 213, Empuriabrava 17487, Girona Spain
Posted On: Alibris, Amazon, B & N, Bookblogs.ning, Fetchbooks, Goodreads, Google Books, Library Thing, Powell's Books, Shelfari
Consort of the Female Pharaoh by Eugene Stovall
Published by OPC
The action takes place around 1500 BC and chronicles the life and times of Hat-Shep-Sut, the female pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. The story begins when she is a young girl and very early on, she chooses who is to be her consort, a fellow student at the Royal School called Senen-Mut. We follow the adventures of the pair throughout their lives during a turbulent period in Egyptian history. The country and its wealth are coveted my many neighbours and a constant battle is fought to maintain their lands, or try to increase them by incorporating other peoples and tribes into their empire.
Intrigue abounds as the Pharaoh schemes and plots to make herself into the supreme being and 'she who must be obeyed' by all of her citizens. She hates the fact that she lives in a male dominated society and strives to utilize her female charms and cunning ways to reach her goal of female domination. She happily sentences any man to death who crosses her, or fails to obey orders, or just catches her in a bad mood.
The couple have one daughter, Neferu-Re, who grows into an exact copy of her mother, but with an even bloodier agenda in mind. She seeks to share power with her half-brother and they plan to overthrow Hat-Shep-Sut, though she proves to be wilier than they suspect. She has already tired of her husband and banished him to his own palace to study science and, as it transpires, he is able to create a powerful 'weapon' to aid his queen in her quest to remain on her throne.
The hyphenated names take some getting used to, and some characters are easily confused, but don't give up. The book is well written and the content is educational and entertaining.
The Mid-South Tribune and the Black Information Highway
Reviewer: Arelya Mitchell
Website: http:// www.blackinformationhighway.com
Posted On: The Mid-South Tribune and the Black Information Highway
Egypt’s Female Pharaoh Hat-Shep-Sut Gets Royal Treatment in Eugene Stovall’s Upcoming Novel
By Arelya J. Mitchell*
“Consort of the Female Pharaoh” transcends all genres. Literally. If you are a reader who likes historical fiction, romance, history, spy, adventure, and even mystery, author Eugene Stovall has delivered these elements of genres with a contemporary feel that does not interfere with the cadence of tone or authenticity of the story of Egypt’s female Pharaoh, Hat-Shep-Sut. Stovall’s ability to capture then to elevate the politics of Egypt’s 18th Dynasty in itself is a noteworthy feat of depicting ‘power’—power in its rawest form: Politics. Then Stovall delves into that power and grabs onto its volatility and nuances to move the story of Egypt’s female Pharaoh’s rise to power along with her consort--a commoner-- Senen-Mut, and other strong-willed male players in this intriguing historical landscape. Stovall’s execution of this little known history is brilliant, creative and bold. Readers will be more than satisfied; they will be pleasantly overwhelmed.
Stovall has done what novelist Robert Graves did in “I, Claudius”, which is to take little known historical figures in a B.C. era and bring them to life with a modernity to import their historical significance. The reason I use ‘little known historical figures’ is because most know about Cleopatra and Mark Antony, both cross-figures in Egyptian and Roman history whose love story and politics have transcended time. But it is a safe bet to say that not many knew of Claudius whom Graves popularized or of the female Pharaoh Maat-Ka-Re Hat-Shep-Sut whom Stovall will popularize once this novel is released.
Even though Egypt had female pharaohs, they were a rarity. And just as Claudius’ stammering was a handicap to him, Hat-Shep-Sut’s being a female was a handicap to her. However, she did have better luck in managing Egypt than Cleo did. Among Egyptologists, Hat-Shep-Sut’s reign is considered more prosperous and successful than Cleopatra’s ill-fated love-stricken reign. Pharaoh Hat-Shep-Sut was smarter, and the way she conducted her tenure-- if one were to get completely contemporary-- was in the same spirit as Tina Turner’s lyrical mantra of “What’s love got to do with it?” Hat-Shep-Sut was so bent on making the Pharaoh ‘monarchy’ solely matriarchal by any means necessary that she usually stayed in a rage which surprisingly did not diminish her ability to think and plot. And think and plot some more.
To reiterate, that feeling of the reader being pleasantly overwhelmed is found in how smoothly the novel moves and in how so much knowledge in Egyptology the reader picks up without that information being so intrusive that it interferes with the flow of action. And there is plenty of action for those who might mistake this as being solely a ‘chick flick’ in historical romance book form. That, it is not.
Stovall has meticulously done his research. In chapter I, the reader is introduced to the equivalent of today’s geek in Senen-Mut, a commoner, who has the ability to make good judgment calls. And when he doesn’t he has the good sense to learn from it. And on his way to becoming Hat-Shep-Sut’s lover and adviser, Senen-Mut takes some hard falls as he treads the thin line between love and hate; heresy and politics; peace and war; death and life. Since Hat-Shep-Sut is bent on making Egypt ‘monarchy’ matriarchal, one has to wonder if Senen-Mut will make it out alive—thus, the intrigue if you don’t already know the history. And if you do, Stovall provides an insight into Senen-Mut that makes it all the more intriguing just to see how many lives this ‘cat’ has.
Stovall proves his writing agility when he back tracks specific events then pushes them forward again to fill in the gaps. This is how he interweaves the mystery and spy genre into what could have been straight historical fiction writing. One gets the feeling that today’s C.I.A. could learn a thing or two from Egypt’s spy network. Speaking of the latter, Stovall introduces and explores yet another cast of historical characters at the hands of both a manipulative Hat-Shep-Sut and Senen-Mut. Of this group the most intriguing are Iby, Senen-Mut’s poor boyhood friend; the powerful Seth-Mesy who would like to be Pharaoh himself ‘by any means necessary’; and Hat-Shep-Sut’s nephew, Thut-Moses, who seemingly in name only is Hat-Shep-Sut’s co-regent. With Hat-Shep-Sut plotting to secure a matriarchal line that heralds “the foremost of distinguished women” means that Thut-Moses is a serpent in her side; yet, Thut-Moses is more interested in the art of war than the art of law. Today he is considered one of Egypt’s most ruthless generals. Of course, one mustn’t leave out Hat-Shep-Sut and Senen-Mut’s daughter, Neferu-Re, who must have been the first with ‘Mommy Dearest’ issues and the archetype of the classic mother-daughter rivalry.
The following passage is just a glimpse into some other historical figures. This one concerns Hat-Shep-Sut’s Pharaoh father who was also named Thut-Moses.
As Seth Mesy and Hapu-Seneb make their way out of the Pharaoh’s Seal room, together, their whispers are punctuated with oaths and scowls. The priests are not happy.
“Pharaoh continues to support the heresy,” Seth-Mesy whispers.
“It will not end until liberals like Pen-Nek-Heb begin advocating mass education and the commoners are engaged in mass disobedience,” Hepu-Seneb agrees.
“When I first put Thut-Moses on the throne,” Seth-Mesy snarls, “not a day went by that he wasn’t thanking me.”
Hepu-Seneb nods his head in agreement.
“Now, he threatens to put my head on a pike!” The high priest’s voice rises in anger.
“Pharaoh believes he can ignore god’s power,” Hepu-Seneb agrees.
“The gods will not permit it!” Seth-Mesy rages.
All in all, just as Graves’ historical novel was pulled from print to film in what became the highly popular award-winning PBS Masterpiece Theater series, “I, Claudius”, Stovall’s treatment of Hat-Shep-Sut’s reign as Egypt’s female Pharaoh deserves the same. I personally cannot wait to get out the popcorn.
Class warfare and women’s liberation come to ancient Egypt in Stovall’s (Cassandra’s Curse, 2010) new historical fiction.
In ancient Egypt, the ruling religious and political forces rely on the separation of classes as the bulwark of their power. It’s heresy, for instance, to teach commoners that they may have any lot in life other than to serve the pharaoh. Senen-Mut is a commoner—a wealthy, promising young man, but a commoner nonetheless. Yet he catches the eye of the local leader and is chosen to study at the Royal School. There, he and young Princess Hat-Shep-Sut fall in love and begin a complex relationship that ties them together for the rest of their lives. Hat-Shep-Sut ascends to the pharaoh’s throne, vexing the conservative leaders, and Senen-Mut rises on to an illustrious military career. Meanwhile, Egypt is in a state of war, constantly defending and redefining its borders. Stovall draws deeply on historical sources to tell his story, set more than 3,000 years ago during Egypt’s 18th dynasty. (Hat-Shep-Sut and Senen-Mut are real historical figures, and historians have speculated on their romantic relationship). Unfortunately, storytelling itself often plays second fiddle to historical detail, turning what must have been very exciting lives into a rather tedious read. Characters sometimes act with very little motivation beyond historical necessity, and they fade in and out of the story, making it easy to forget the main story arc. Senen-Mut and Hat-Shep-Sut even disappear from the narrative for long stretches. This long, rangy book covers decades of action, but it’s oddly paced, often covering far too much ground in short, choppy paragraphs. Beyond the structure, there’s a desperate need for copy editing, with persistent punctuation, grammatical and spelling errors, as well as the odd but consistent italicization of certain proper names. A disciplined editor could help bring this epic story to life.
A big, baggy book that will appeal to only the most passionate ancient Egypt buffs.
Pub Date:Sept. 19th, 2012
Review Posted Online:Feb. 13th, 2013
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