Coffey’s debut historical novel traces the lives and events during the 18th dynasty of Egypt from the time of Pharaoh Amenhotep to Ramesses.
Machiavellian intrigue is mere child’s play compared to what went on in ancient Egypt. Rival gods, powerful priests, opium addiction, jealousy, war, incest, pederasty, summary executions, unchecked ambition, and spying from behind curtains are just a few of the royal shenanigans in this epic envisioning of Pharaonic Egypt. Coffey has a knack for turning historical figures (even those with unpronounceable names) into living people the reader can love, hate, or feel ambivalent about. The story opens with the two sons of Amenhotep—Tuthmosis and Teppy. They are mischievous and rely on each other to navigate the strange world of adults. Teppy is shy, deformed, and plagued by nightmares; his brother, strong, brazen, and protective of Teppy. Their mother, the ever-scheming Queen Tiye, defies her husband and sends Tuthmosis to the Nubian front, where after saving his father, he is killed. Tiye maneuvers Teppy onto the throne after the death of Amenhotep. Teppy becomes Pharaoh Akhenaten, marries Nefertiti, and leaves the god Amun’s city of Thebes to found a new capital, Amarna, under the god Aten. They give birth to King Tut, who is forced to return to Thebes after the death of his parents and whose own death paves the way to the 19th dynasty. All the while there are wars, alliances, and betrayals, good priests vs. evil priests, conniving relatives, curses cast, murderous jealousies, plagues, and famines. Coffey not only creates empathy for and breathes life into historical figures, but he inhabits his narrative with a cast who, like real people, are neither good nor evil, but a confused mixture of motive, belief, upbringing, and circumstance. His characters act according to these various drives and needs to realistically propel the action forward.
Certainly a must for Egyptophiles; transcends its historical genre and is sure to delight anyone who has ever heard of Tut, Nefertiti, pharaohs, pyramids, or mummies.