(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
When Naomi’s sisters are snatched up to be taken to be wives of the erratic Pharaoh, Akhenaten, she knows they won’t survive the palace, so she offers herself in their place. The fearsome Commander Horemheb sees her courage, and knows she is exactly what he is looking for…
The Great Queen Nefertiti despises Naomi instantly, and strips her of her Hebrew lineage, including her name, which is changed to Kiya. Kiya allies herself with Horemheb, who pushes her to greatness and encourages her to make the Pharaoh fall in love with her. When Akhenaten declares Kiya will be the mother of his heir, Nefertiti, furious with jealousy, schemes to destroy Kiya.
Kiya must play the deadly game carefully. She is in a silent battle of wills, and a struggle for who will one day inherit the crown. If she does bear an heir, she knows she will need to fight to protect him, as well as herself, from Nefertiti who is out for blood.
[Full disclosure: I received a free ebook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
First off, please don’t judge Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh by the tacky cover. The story is so much better, I promise.
Since so little is known about the real Kiya (we don’t even know if she really was Tutankhamun’s mother), I’m willing to suspend my disbelief at the premise of her being Hebrew. Okay, fair enough. Most theories place her as Nubian, but they’re just theories and I thought the whole premise of Naomi offering herself to Akhenaten to save her sisters was just too good to pass up. After being presented with an Egyptian name, Naomi embarks upon a dangerous journey through the intrigues of a dysfunctional court and an even more dangerous harem.
Now, this great premise would have been ruined if Katie Hamstead’s characterization wasn’t as strong as it is. Naomi/Kiya carries the whole story on her shoulders as she learns to feel affection for and maybe even love Akhenaten, a man she was always taught was evil. She also makes friends and enemies in the harem, the most notable being her rival, Nefertiti. Or rather, Nefertiti considers Naomi her rival and the lengths she goes to in order to preserve her place as Great Royal Wife are incredible. Whenever I picture the real Nefertiti, I can’t help but imagine her as the vain, ridiculously beautiful, scheming woman Katie Hamstead has portrayed. Other notable characters of the time like the ruthless, but oddly considerate Horemheb feel spot-on to me. The characters don’t always appear to be consistent, but the big reveals throughout the story show that they were acting believably the whole time.
The details of ancient Egyptian life are generally accurate, although Katie Hamstead used the modern name of Amarna to refer to Akhetaten. But Akhenaten’s fits, the fact he discarded the old religion in favour of one god and his utter lack of desire to make war are well documented and I couldn’t spot any glaring factual errors. In writing about Akhenaten, Katie Hamstead had quite a bit of leeway as there are very, very few records from the time. Still, I can’t complain about the historical accuracy.
As for the plot, it was quite fast-paced for historical fiction and kept me reading into the early hours of the morning, far past when I should have gone to bed. It was really that good. Naomi was just a fascinating character and her confusion about Malachi and Akhenaten, her hot-cold friendship with Horemheb and the constant threat of Nefertiti’s jealousy kept me on my toes the whole time. Some of the plot twists were predictable, but others (especially at the end) I didn’t see coming. Especially the big reveal at the end involving a certain male character.
It’s that big reveal that makes me want the next book this instant. Although we know generally what happens to Akhenaten and Naomi’s son Tutankhamun from history, I just can’t get enough of Naomi. She’s definitely one of my new favourite characters and I’ve just found a new author to watch because if Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh is any indicator, we can expect great things from Katie Hamstead.
I give this book 5/5 stars.