(Cover picture courtesy of Teen Ink.)
Akhenaten…the powerful, the pious, the infamous. Raised in the heat of the palace harem, mated to his beautiful, dangerous cousin Nefertiti, the young Pharaoh soon turned his passion heavenward. His love of the sun god Ra seared his being and consumed his worldly attentions. As Akhenaten’s rule soared to its finale, ancient Egypt teetered on the edge of a cataclysm, and his family’s curse became an empire’s downfall.
Pauline Gedge is one of the best writers of historical fiction set in ancient Egypt and The Twelfth Transforming proves it.
Set in the (in)famous 18th Dynasty of Egypt, this novel chronicles the entirety of the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten’s reign through the eyes of his domineering mother, Queen Tiye. Tiye is a ruthless woman by virtue of being Great Royal Wife to pharaoh Amunhotep III (Akhenaten’s father), and as such, is not always a sympathetic narrator. But she is so three dimensional that she commands your attention and you miss her forceful personality near the end of the novel when she dies.
Pauline Gedge paints a vivid picture of the 18th Dynasty and fills her novel with authentic historical details. Most of the events in the novel are correct, however there are gaps in history that she fills with the most salacious and dramatic explanations. But readers also have to keep in mind that The Twelfth Transforming was written in 1984 and reflects the information she had available at the time. If you do not mind tiny historical inaccuracies (most of which are only noticeable to fanatics like myself), then this is certainly the novel for you.
I give this book 4/5 stars.