The first volume in the reader-acclaimed, Amazon bestselling She-King series, a saga of ancient Egypt's most fascinating royal family.
Is Ahmose's divine gift a blessing or a curse?
The second daughter of the Pharaoh, Ahmose has always dreamed of a quiet life as a priestess, serving Egypt's gods, ministering to the people of the Two Lands. But when the Pharaoh dies without an heir, she is given instead as Great Royal Wife to the new king – a soldier of common birth. For Ahmose is god-chosen, gifted with the ability to read dreams, and it is her connection to the gods which ensures the new Pharaoh his right to rule.
Ahmose's elder sister Mutnofret has been raised to expect the privileged station of Great Royal Wife; her rage at being displaced cannot be soothed. As Ahmose fights the currents of Egypt's politics and Mutnofret's vengeful anger, her youth and inexperience carry her beyond her depth and into the realm of sacrilege.
To right her wrongs and save Egypt from the gods' wrath, Ahmose must face her most visceral fear: bearing an heir. But the gods of Egypt are exacting, and even her sacrifice may not be enough to restore the Two Lands to safety.
The Sekhmet Bed is the first volume of Libbie Hawker's series The She-King, a family saga of the Thutmosides, one of ancient Egypt's most fascinating royal families. Don't miss Book 2: The Crook and Flail
Note: This ebook edition contains a preview chapter of Libbie Hawker's new ancient Egyptian series, The Book of Coming Forth by Day.
I'll be honest. Normally I shy away from self-published and independently-published books for the mere fact that I have a very strident and strict editor in my head. When I read books, even mainstream, big house-published books, and find errors, that editor aches to pop out and start flaying the pages with a bold red pencil. Knowing that self-published works suffer even more as they lack the polish a professional editor can achieve, I just don't want to put myself through that kind of anguish, as I would no longer be reading the book for pleasure, but constantly seeking out and destroying all the errors. Not to mention many of the stories put out there are often amateurish, juvenile, and downright execrable. However, almost none of those things apply to The Sekhmet Bed, and my inner editor and I were able to enjoy the book with a minimum of red pencil usage.
I won't bother to synopsize (that's a word, right? If not, it is one now) the novel as it's been done so by others, in a clearer, more concise way than what I could achieve. I will say that publishers should be sitting up and taking notice of Ironside. She's managed to write a novel full of compelling characters as well as intense, atmospheric settings. Frankly, she leaves Michelle Moran in the dust; anyone who compares Ironside to Moran is insulting Ironside. The interactions between characters feel real and authentic; the insertion of mystical elements doesn't compromise the integrity of the historical setting as they're not presented as though they're really happening (except to the person experiencing them, which is only natural; people who have divine visions believe they're real, even if no one else does or understands what they're talking about). The "bad guy" character, Mutnofret, is sufficiently despicable, yet she occasionally shows flashes of humanity in the way she wavers from her actions and shows doubt--which is how "bad guy" characters ought to be written. Even the protagonist isn't perfect as she does things which are questionable and acts out, behaving quite badly at times. About the only character who isn't as fully developed is Thutmose and that's probably because for a lot of the novel he isn't present.
It's obvious Ironside did her research as she was able to deviate from some of the accepted theories concerning the characters in an authentic manner, unlike some authors who maybe skim some of the research and decide, to hell with it, they're going to write the story the way they want to, no matter how things really happened. One of the interesting deviations was the way Ironside presented the marriage of Ahmose, Mutnofret, and Thutmose. The prevailing theory is that Thutmose was originally married to Mutnofret--who may or may not have been related to Ahmose as well as Amenhotep I--they had three or four sons, and then Mutnofret died well before Amenhotep I died and Thutmose married Ahmose. However, by making Mutnofret not only a contemporary of Ahmose, but her sister and sister wife, Ironside neatly introduces a built-in package of tension and strife into the royal household, giving her a rich storyline to mine for drama. This alternate history is presented in such an authentic manner, it's easy to believe that it could've been true.
Ironside also did what I've been ranting about for years: she used the true Egyptian names for divinities and titles rather than their Greco-Egyptian counterparts. That said, for some of the gods she kept their Greek names, i.e. Osiris and Hathor rather than Ausar/Asar and Het-Heru (which means 'House of Heru [Horus]', just as an aside), which seemed rather strange. However, I was just happy that she even bothered using the ancient Egyptian language in the first place. It has annoyed me for quite some time when I see historical fiction set in ancient Egypt and an author is using the Greek transliterations of Egyptian words. How difficult would it be to use Ausar, Auset, Heru, Tehuti, Nebt-Het and simply place a glossary in the front of the book? It doesn't take long to understand that Tehuti is Thoth or Nebt-Het is Nephthys and using their real names makes the novel that much more authentic.
Other than a few editing errors (punctuation errors, the occasional misspelling, missed capitalization) which are to be expected, the book was surprisingly well-written, taut and streamlined. Surprising for the mere fact that I didn't expect it to be so; I expected to find a lot more extraneous narration or choppy dialogue. There was none. Which means finally I've found a writer of ancient Egyptian historical fiction who can wipe the stench of Michelle Moran from my brain. Which also means I'm eagerly looking forward to the next installment in Ironside's series.
By the way, I'm simply an armchair Egyptologist. I've been fascinated by the subject for many, many years, but I've never undertaken a scholarly investigation of the subject. My (scanty) knowledge comes from years of absorbing books and other works on the subject. So if something I've pointed out as being wrong isn't, in fact, wrong, then I accept that I'm the one who's wrong. Is that enough wrongs to make a right?
Disclaimer: I was asked by the author herself to read and write a fair and honest review of this book. No monies or other favors were promised or exchanged by either party in return for this review and I had never had previous contact with said author.Read more ›
It's been a very long time since a book actually moved me. Not just make me think, grin, chuckle, or even look over my shoulder. But actually move me. This one did. When I started reading The Sekhmet Bed, I had no idea what the story was about other than it takes place in ancient Egypt. So I waded through the opening chapters, intrigued by the cast of regal figures come to life from the dusty pages of history. As the drama unfolded, I found myself lingering on each page while I savored the hypnotic cadence of the prose. I let the author guide me through a world of ancient temples, pharaohs, princesses, and gods. I feasted with queens, danced with harem girls, drifted down the Nile river on a sail barge, and bathed in the light of the moon while riding in a golden chariot. I heard the voices from the past, telling me their story, telling me about their triumphs and their losses, about the people they loved and how they died. I heard the voices of the divine. And then, I reached the end.
I imagine The Sekhmet Bed is the kind of tale that an ancient Greek Playwright might have had performed at the amphitheater. It's difficult not to find yourself moved by the sacrifice of Princess Ahmoset, or Ahmose for short, who trades her own happiness for the welfare of her people, subjecting herself to the often cruel whims of fate. Her trials with her sister, Mutnofret, who is always scheming to wrest control of their husband Thutmose, the reigning Pharaoh, as well as take back her birthright as rightful queen of Egypt, sets the stage for a series of heartbreaking, but emotionally charged confrontations. One can't help but root for Ahmose as she runs the gauntlet, even at times resorting to sleight of hand or force, to find ways to fulfill her destiny as the Gods chosen Queen of Egypt.
This is the first historical novel I've read that blends mysticism with history, blurring the lines between what's actually happening with the internal musings of its protagonist. Did the gods really speak to Ahmose through visions? Or was she the victim of an overactive imagination? The path she walks is perilous and often has deadly consequences for the people in her life. Whether or not her choices were made at the behest of divine figures or hubris only heightens the drama.
When it was all over, I had a tough time saying good-bye to the characters in Ms. Ironside's book. Many days after reading The Sekhmet Bed, I'm still thinking about them. They are a part of me now and exist somewhere alongside Huck Finn and Frodo. Needless to say, this is a story that stays with you long after the final pages of the book has been turned. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys an emotionally charged tale or, like me, wants to journey to a time and place that exists beyond the insipid pages of history books.Read more ›
In any novel, first and foremost, I need to be invested in the characters. If I can't find that investment, I cannot care about what happens. Reading becomes a chore.
After reading "The Sekhmet Bed," I began to understand this in a better way, because "The Sekhmet Bed" succeeded where, for me, other highly praised books have not. I became emotionally invested in the characters. "The Sekhmet Bed" offers us the princess, Ahmose, and her pharaoh, Thutmose, (whom I adored). Then we get the nasty sister, Mutnofret, and Ineni, the lover. Even Ironside's secondary characters, like Aiya, Twomose and Sitre-In became real, fully-fleshed out. I would pick up "The Sekhmet Bed" intending to read for only a moment, because a moment was all I had at the time. Fifteen minutes, twenty minutes, a half hour later, I would still be reading, even though I felt antsy because I had other things I needed to be doing. I could not stop reading. I had to know what happened next. I had to know what was on that next page.
For this reader, that is the mark of a successful novel.
Many of the scenes in "The Sekhmet Bed" clearly show how fragile life was in ancient Egypt, even though in some ways, they lived very comfortable, modern lives. Still, the wound caused by an animal bite could fester, and they had no way to stop it. There was danger all around, not only from invading tribes but crocodiles, snakes, and childbirth. Throughout everything runs the gods, their ultimate control, and the need to appease them.
I loved how vividly the author shows the power of women in this culture. I learned so much from this book: about ancient Egypt, and about the possible birth, childhood and subsequent power of Hatshepsut, the famed woman who ruled as pharaoh. I loved how the names of the children, even the Pharaoh's offspring, were chosen by their mothers. Although the book never ever fails for a single moment in its storytelling ability or in its beautiful voice or in the deep, vibrant connection between character and reader, it still managed to convey a tremendously visual, real, easy-to-identify-with culture and society.
I absolutely loved the full-circle progression of the complex relationship between Ahmose and Mutnofret. I don't believe I have ever read a book where I disliked a character so much, and by the end of the book I loved her and felt intimately connected to her.Read more ›