Another of Tarr's historicals set in ancient Egypt (Pillar of Fire, 1995, etc.). Queen Hatshepsut, daughter of Thutmose I, is the Great Royal Wife of Thutmose II, her brother. A mere girl when she became Queen, Hatshepsut only reluctantly admits the petulant Thutmose to her bed, developing meanwhile a friendship with the haughty young scribe Senenmut. And when Hatshepsut finally gives birth to a daughter, Neferure, she's barren thereafter, and Thutmose must sire his heir, the future Thutmose III, upon the concubine Isis. And when Thutmose II dies of fever, his son is too young to take the throne, so Hatshepsut becomes Regent. Senenmut, now the Queen's lover and confidante, remains wary of her protector, the giant Nubian, Nehsi. Neferure grows swiftly into a headstrong young woman and, after a foolish affair with Senenmut's brother, becomes pregnant, only to die in childbirth. With Thutmose slow to mature, Hatshepsut, prompted by the god Amon, declares herself King, and proves popular with commoners and nobles alike. Thutmose, still in awe of her, nevertheless grows frustrated and embittered. King Hatshepsut commissions spectacular monuments, and sends Nehsi on an important trade mission to the land of Punt. Finally, after Senenmut's death, Isis poisons Hatshepsut. But Thutmose must wait 20 years, until Nehsi finally dies, before attempting to uproot Hatshepsut's memory by defacing her monuments and despoiling Senenmut's tomb. An uncompelling yarn whose lifeless characters and lackluster backdrop fail to capture the spirit of singularity of the historical period: the least successful of an at best mediocre series.