Once upon a time, in the land famous for its pyramids, one woman gained the ultimate power. However, before she became pharaoh, Hat-Shep-Sut grows up as the pampered princess of a powerful monarch. Educated as befitted the future consort to the heir, her own brother, Hat-Shep-Sut meets the commoner Senen-Mut in school. Despite his middle-class origins, Senen-Mut has a mind like none she has ever seen. The two become lovers and the story begins.
Mr. Stovall offers a historical fiction view of Egypt’s famous female pharaoh. I have been fascinated with Hat-Shep-Sut since I first read about her during an Ancient Egypt history class. I have read a couple of biographies about her and continue to want to know more. I looked forward to reading this book for a chance to see someone else’s interpretation of this fascinating woman.
However, the writing made Consort of the Female Pharaoh painful to read. Mr. Stovall chose to tell the tale primarily in present tense, an odd choice for fiction and odder still for historical fiction. I could have swallowed the literary choice if it had been done well but it wasn’t At times, Mr. Stovall shifted from present tense to past tense in a single sentence making it difficult to follow.
The writing came across as simplistic. I think part of that stemmed from the use of present tense but much of it stemmed from the author telling the reader rather than showing the reader. It left me feeling as if Mr. Stovall did not think his readers could interpret the action without having everything spelled out to them in great detail.
The characters had little personality or depth. Each of them acted arbitrarily, to fit the known history, rather than from well fleshed out motives. For me, one of the big strengths of historical fiction has been the ability to create fascinating psyches for the characters that explain why history happened the way it did. This book offered none of that. I felt all of the characters seemed cartoon like rather than real.
Lastly, the narrative breaks periodically to offer historical background that reads like a history book of Ancient Egypt. While the historical background certainly helped to explain the action, I found the sudden breaks in the narrative distracting and unnecessary. I did not feel that I needed that much background and much of it could have been woven into the narrative without throwing the reader completely out of the story.
Altogether, I had to force myself to finish this book.
Sara Drake has been an avid reader since a young age. She has both a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling and a Master’s in History.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Eugene Stovall. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.