The Pharaoh’s Daughter

The Pharaoh’s DaughterThe Pharaoh's Daughter by Mesu Andrews
Genres: Biblical Fiction
Published by Waterbrook Press on March 17, 2015
Pages: 386
Also by this author: Miriam

 

Anippe has known from a young age that Pharaoh and the Egyptian gods controlled her fate. After childbirth took the lives her mother and infant brother, she becomes deathly afraid of bearing a child of her own, believing that Anubis, the Egyptian god of death lies in wait for the day she becomes a mother. She carries this fear into her marriage to Sebak, a captain in her brother, Pharaoh Tut’s, army and follows her as she becomes mistress of a prominent Egyptian estate. When Tut orders the Hebrew midwives to drown any sons that are born to their people, Anippe seizes the opportunity to launch a great deception. Finding a baby floating in a basket in the Nile, Anippe believes the Egyptian gods have answered her prayers. She can pretend that she had a son, yet doing so sets into motion events that place her, her son and his true Hebrew family, in terrible danger. As bloodshed mounts and the political tide of Egypt turns, Anippe wonders if her son may have a chance to become Pharaoh, or whether the god of the Hebrews, He who is called El Shaddai, has a bigger plan for them both.

Prior to reading The Pharaoh’s Daughter, I had only read one of Mesu Andrews’s previous novels. While it was fully enjoyable, this novel brought a whole other level for me. I’ve read a couple of authors that are very popular in Biblical fiction, but they just didn’t click with me, so I tend to stick with a hand full of authors in this genre that I know won’t disappoint. After finishing this novel, I feel confident that Mesu Andrews can easily join their ranks.

Mesu truly understands the importance of showing what happened rather than simply telling.

In many ways, The Pharaoh’s Daughter is an epic story. It spans several years and several major shifts throughout Anippe’s life. There is a lot of political intrigue and several characters, but I feel like Mesu imparts what the reader needs to know without it being overwhelming. There are some jumps in time, but they were not a problem for me here. The passage of time and key events that the reader needs to know are explained by allowing the information to come naturally in the scene. Whether in the opening scene after substantial passage of time or whether in a character’s emotions after an intense scene, Mesu truly understands the importance of showing what happened rather than simply telling. She brings ancient Egypt to life in a fascinating way. Details of their belief system, politics, and daily life are present from the beginning, woven seamlessly throughout the story. One of my favorite details she included was the way they named second and third children the same name as the first born to “trick” the gods as a way to ensure the firstborn’s life. Names in general are very important in both the Egyptian and Hebrew families, and even Anippe experiences name changes that have a profound impact on her. From their elaborate feasts to the details of running an Egyptian household, I found it all to be mesmerizing.

The juxtaposition of the Egyptian’s way of life and the Hebrew’s way of life was very startling at times, but what was even more impressive was the feeling of discovering that along with Anippe as the story progresses.

The lives of the Egyptian royalty and the Hebrew servants are fully realized. Despite having guards and servants are at her beck and call and wanting for very little in the material sense, Anippe lives in fear, first from childbirth, then later from her deception of raising Moses as her own son. The juxtaposition of the Egyptian’s way of life and the Hebrew’s way of life was very startling at times, but what was even more impressive was the feeling of discovering that along with Anippe as the story progresses. The lavish, pampered lifestyle of the Egyptians is a stark foil to the simplistic, bare, yet often content, lifestyle of the Hebrews. Both families are composed of well-rounded characters full of depth. Their hopes, fears and dreams were rich and layered, and I especially loved the interactions that brought royalty and commoner together. Although Anippe starts off as pampered and entitled, she develops and grows in a realistic way. Her sister, Ankhe, provides a nice foil for her, showing what can happen when bitterness in life circumstances rules instead of hope. Anippe gave her chance after chance, which was a bit annoying; however, since her sister was her only close relative, I can understand why she was so forgiving. Mered, a Hebrew and the chief linen maker in Anippe’s estate, is also a complex character. I really enjoyed getting to know him and his family. Overall, the relationships between the characters come across as genuine and heartfelt, and I especially treasured the relationship between Anippe and Miriam, who becomes Anippe’s handmaiden after she is found watching Moses from the river bank.

This novel has a bit of everything – danger, court and political intrigues, familial and romantic love and a beautiful tale of redemption that encompasses the entire story.

This novel has a bit of everything – danger, court and political intrigues, familial and romantic love and a beautiful tale of redemption that encompasses the entire story. The spiritual aspect feels very authentic and natural to the story, and I related to Anippe’s fears and doubts. As her name is changed once again, this time to the Hebrew name of Bithiah, she comes to understand just how worthy she is of a life free from fear and seeing her progress from fear to hope was very uplifting.

I am no expert on Egyptian history or a Biblical scholar, so as long as an author stays true to the Biblical account, I am usually lenient when it comes to things that don’t have a definitive answer. The Bible doesn’t name the pharaoh in the story of Moses, and Mesu chooses to use Tut as the Pharaoh that decreed Hebrew baby boys to be killed at birth and his successor as the one who refused the Lord’s demands in Exodus. While I don’t know that I believe them to be two different pharaohs, Mesu does present a plausible story and has clearly done a lot of research. Much of the story takes place well before the events in Exodus, so it’s easy to see Mesu’s story as what “could have been,” and I also appreciated her explanation at the end and what scripture she used as reference.

Ultimately when I read fiction set in biblical times, I want to feel prompted to return to the biblical account and look at it with fresh eyes once again. Mesu certainly accomplished that for me in The Pharaoh’s Daughter. It was a thoroughly entertaining, enlightening and profound read that kept me turning those pages well past time to turn in for the night. The Pharaoh’s Daughter is labeled as “A Treasure of the Nile Novel,” so I’m hoping this means more stories (perhaps one about Miriam!) like this one are up next for Mesu. I am eager to read her other published books and whatever story that she pens next. Highly recommended!

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