Monday, April 28, 2014

Daughter of the Gods by Stephanie Thornton

Title: Daughter of the Gods
Author: Stephanie Thornton

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Ancient Egypt / 15th Century BC / Historical Figures Fictionalized / Royalty / Intrigue)
Publisher/Publication Date: NAL Trade (5/6/2014)
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Rating: Liked to loved.
Did I finish?: Yeah, I did, in a matter of hours.
One-sentence summary: The tumultuous life of Egypt's nearly forgotten female Pharaoh, Hatshepsut.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: Actually, I'm kind of cold on it, but that's fine: it's very good at expressing the feel of the book, which is what matters!

I'm reminded of...: Sandra Gulland, Philippa Gregory, Susan Holloway Scott

First line: The gods erred that day.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy.

Why did I get this book?: Thornton's debut novel was awesome, and this second one just as good.

Review: I was just swept up by Stephanie Thornton's first novel, The Secret History, about Empress Theodora and as a result, was waiting impatiently for this book and her third novel (about the women in Genghis Khan's life!). Thornton has that wonderful knack for finding nearly forgotten women from history and giving their credulity-straining lives notice, dignity, and vibrancy.

In this book, she turns her attention to Hatshepsut, an Egyptian royal who ascended to Pharaoh, only to be almost completely erased from history after her reign.  A prophecy warned her that while she would bring glory to Egypt, it would come at the cost of everyone she loved -- a warning Hatshepsut was determined to circumvent.  She wanted glory, but she wanted love, too.

When it comes to drama and big emotions, Thornton doesn't hold back. By page 10 -- the end of the first chapter -- I was wiping away tears.  The reign of peace that Hatshepsut brought really came at dramatic cost for her, and I was hanging on every page. Love, betrayal, friendship, motherhood, war, and artistic endeavors: this book has it all!

Her Hatshepsut is strong-willed, occasionally stubborn, clever and ambitious -- believable traits in a woman who would crown herself Pharaoh.  While many of her personality quirks and preferences are wholly invented by Thornton, they rang true for me, and felt authentic to her heroine and the era she was from -- something I always appreciate in a historical novel!

As with her previous novel, Thornton makes the scandalous grounded and what could be tawdry or licentious touched with humane warmth.  Haptshepsut is married to her half-brother and is to sire his children, and Thornton handles that element in a way that recognizes history without totally alienating modern readers.

The historical details were well integrated in the narrative; through context, the reader is able to understand some of the more alien aspects of life in Egypt in 1400ish BC, and there's no over-explaining or info-dumping to slow things down.

Readers who love splashy historical novels with royal intrigue will want this one; Thornton joins the host of authors who shine a light on dynasties and families that give the Tudors and Borgias a run for their money.  Those who are obsessed with Egypt will also want this one, as well as fans of Stephanie Dray, Kate Quinn, and Michelle Moran.  Another highly recommended read -- perfect for the beach!

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Daughter of the Gods to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US and Canadian readers, ends 5/16.  For another entry, check out my interview with Stephanie Thornton.


  1. Sounds like an interesting book. I am a big fan of Egyptian history.

    1. It was so fascinating -- the look into "everyday" Egyptian life (for a royal, at least) was so interesting. Ladies were topless all the time!

  2. This probably isn't the book for me, but I have an extended family member who loves historical Egyptian fiction, so this will be just the thing.

    In other news, the only other time I've ever heard of Haptshepsut was in reading a really amazing piece of Harry Potter fanfiction: The Jewel of the Nile, featuring Our Girl Hermione in all kinds of Cairo adventures. It's part two of a trilogy and quite EXCELLENT.

    1. Uhm, that fic sounds amazing!! I'll have to nose around for it!

  3. I didn't know that about Egyptian fiction. I'm looking forward to this book. I've read child of the Morning by Pauline Gedge, which is also about Hatshepsut. That is one of my favorite books of all time. So hopefully, Daughter of the gods will be just as good or, if not, better

  4. The little I've read about Hatshepsut was fascinating, so, fiction or not (and there's got to be a lot of fiction, really, in this case, being so long ago) I would love to read this. I quite like the cover, so to hear that it matches the book well is nice.