Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Daughter of the Gods - Stephanie Thornton

Daughter of the Gods
Title: Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt
Author: Stephanie Thornton
Publication Date: 5/6/2014
Pages: 442
Genre: Biography / Chick Lit / Historical / Royals / Fiction
How I Found It: I've read Thornton's other books.
Date Completed: 4/8/18

Summary: Hatshepsut likely served as one of ancient Egypt's only female pharaohs. Somewhere along the line, one of her successors attempted to erase her legacy from history. Thornton pieces together what little we know and adds a hefty dash of her own imagination to create this historical fiction look at the powerful woman's life. 

What I Thought: I feel as though my general disdain for historical fiction - particularly about royals - has been well established on this blog. It's why I steer so far clear of Phillipa Gregory's fictional Tudor empire. I know too much of the real history to be able to enjoy a fantasized version of events. Thornton, however, has consistently proved herself the exception to my rule.

Very little is known about the life of Hatshepsut (the number of times I've spelled that name wrong while writing this post gives me a whole lot of respect for Thornton's editor). Like with her other novels, Thornton had to draw extensively from her own imagination to craft the world her characters inhabit. It's a lot of educated guessing. Usually, that's what drives me crazy about historical fiction. Thornton, however, has been wise in selecting relatively unknown women. We know so little about them that all we really have is imagination and educated guesses. So, these stories feel indulgent and far less of a violation of historical truth than many other works in the genre. 

As I mentioned when reviewing The Secret History, Thornton's novel about the Empress Theodora, Thornton's writing can feel a bit like a soap opera at times. However, the lives that these women led were probably far more soap opera-ish than we tend to imagine. The world of ancient royalty was cutthroat and dangerous. Any claim to power made you a target; it also likely meant you had done some targeting of your own to acquire said power. 

This book is part of my 2018 TBR Challenge!
Her rendering of Hatshepsut's life fits that same bill. Considering the sexual ethics practices by Egypt's pharaohs, no reader should be surprised. The royal family encouraged siblings to marry to keep the royal bloodline pure and nearly any ancient ruler had a court full of additional wives and concubines. The abundance of partners and children are, in part, why the power game was so brutal. 

While I know a decent amount about Cleopatra, Egypt's other female rulers have been lesser known to me. I very much enjoyed reading Thornton's imaginings about Hatshepsut's life. Of course, we will likely never know how close she hit the mark - if at all - but it's a fun read regardless. The only downside of Thornton's focus on more obscure women in history is how little nonfiction there is to read about them once I have finished Thornton's fictional works. I wish there were more solid bios for these women out there!

There's one more Thornton novel I have yet to get to before she releases her next book (about Alice Roosevelt!) in early 2019. I would imagine you'll be seeing a review for that one sooner rather than later. 

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Maybe
If You Liked This, Try: Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff / The Sisters of Versailles / Catherine the Great 
Other Books By Stephanie Thornton: The Secret History / The Tiger Queens

A Reduced Review: Thornton once again offers a delightful, interesting novel about an obscure historical woman. This look at Egyptian Pharaoh Hatshepsut was fascinating and a great read.

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