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104 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An up and coming author worthy of more public notice
4.5 stars

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...
Published on December 31, 2011 by Laura Probst

versus
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious naval gazing in ancient Egypt
Dull romance where the top princesses in Egypt vie for the love of Phaoroh. Do they ever quit obsessing about their misinterpretations of motives and events? I will never find out because I quit halfway through.
Published 22 months ago by W. Nemitz


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104 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An up and coming author worthy of more public notice, December 31, 2011
This review is from: The Sekhmet Bed (The She-King Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
4.5 stars

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.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First rate historical novel by debut author., May 24, 2012
This review is from: The Sekhmet Bed (The She-King Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
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.
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32 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The characters, the place, and the time come to life, February 20, 2012
By 
RAL West (Mountain West) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Sekhmet Bed (The She-King Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
Again, another Indie-published book has moved me beyond my ability to express, has left me in tears, and will remain with me for a very long time. Publishers had a chance at this and passed? It's really inconceivable. (I don't know if this book was even offered to agents or publishers, so my comment/question might not apply.)

Okay, short rant over.

I've read many historical novels in the past few years, or tried to, and have been disappointed repeatedly, almost to the point where I don't want to read historical fiction anymore, and have gravitated more toward the fantasy genre. The problem is that I can't seem to get emotionally invested.

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. For example. I spent months reading "Dreaming the Eagle," by Manda Scott. While I was highly impressed with the author's vision and ability to write, and many of her phrases were beautiful and visual, I still could not get emotionally invested. It took months to read because I didn't really care enough to pick it up after putting it down. And it was far too easy to put it down. I wanted to read that book. I'm very interested in Boudica and I want to know everything I can about her. But it was a chore to get through the book, and I haven't yet picked up book number two. Another example would be Pressfield's "Gates of Fire" and "The Last of the Amazons." Both subjects are of great interest to me, and I wanted to read them as part of getting immersed in my own story/time period. But I have never succeeded in getting past the first few chapters of "Gates of Fire" and although I did finish "The Last of the Amazons," it ended up being very much like "Dreaming the Eagle." I just couldn't get invested, even though the subject is of interest to me and the writing is stellar. At the other end of the spectrum is "The Red Tent." I loved every line of that book and hated for it to end. I could read "The Red Tent" forever!

Everything in books is subjective, and there are many readers who love the books listed above. It's very hard for me to pin down something concrete as to why the emotional attachment never happened for me in them. I guess if I had to really try, I would say that the main characters seemed to be kept at a deliberate distance from the reader.

After reading "The Sekhmet Bed," I began to understand all this in a better way, because "The Sekhmet Bed" succeeded where, for me, these other two highly praised books did not. As happened with "The Red Tent," 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 for me. 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. I have found this quality is not guaranteed by being published through a big publishing house, or having a well-known name. It isn't my intent to run down the books I mentioned: they are beautiful in many ways and expertly written. But for me, they were missing the key element I personally require to be satisfied.

It occurs to me that this might be the reason for the popularity of romance novels, which often rely heavily on the thoughts and emotions of the characters.

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.

I must stop as this is getting so long. I must not tell more, in fear of writing any spoilers, and because I cannot do any real justice to the many layers of wonderful prose that make up "The Sekmet Bed."
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious naval gazing in ancient Egypt, November 6, 2012
By 
W. Nemitz (Saint Paul, MN) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Sekhmet Bed (Paperback)
Dull romance where the top princesses in Egypt vie for the love of Phaoroh. Do they ever quit obsessing about their misinterpretations of motives and events? I will never find out because I quit halfway through.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rousing romance in exotic ancient Egypt, November 26, 2013
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This review is from: The Sekhmet Bed (The She-King Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
A lot of research went into "The Sekhmet Bed", and it shows; Ironside clearly knows her Thutmosids. "The Sekhmet Bed" is the first book in a trilogy that covers the life of Hatshepsut, and provides a fascinating glimpse of life in 18th Dynasty Egypt. Little details abound, such as the return of Thutmose I from war with his enemy tied to the prow of his ship. Ironside is so committed to technical accuracy that she even uses the ancient names for cities and towns; sites we would call Thebes and Karnak are instead called by their Egyptian names of Waset and Ipet-Isut. For those not familiar with ancient Egypt, this has the effect of transmuting it into a fantasy land like Middle-Earth or Narnia.

Young Ahmose, the daughter of Amenhotep I, can hear the voices of the gods. Thrust into a role she does not want and married to a non-royal Pharaoh, she must struggle to grow into a woman strong enough to hold the throne of Egypt against challengers such as her own sister. She must also struggle with her fear of sex, or more explicitly, her fear of childbirth. I found this part a little hard to take, but I assumed that it was a device on the author's part to spare her readers a story about a thirteen year old forced into consummation of a marriage. While this practice, along with sibling marriage, may have been common in ancient Egyptian royalty, modern audiences are usually repulsed by what amounts to child rape. By the time Ahmose overcomes her reluctance, she is past the age of consent in most modern cultures and is emotionally mature enough for the "romance" to take place. (It remains to be seen how Ironside will deal with later parts of this story, which will involve a woman marrying her own half-brother.)

One of the pitfalls of writing about ancient Egypt is that all too often, the focus is on royalty, palaces, and wealth. Another problem is that when writing about royal women, the author finds herself as boxed in as the women themselves. The royal women of ancient Egypt were often married against their will and forced to stay home bearing children. Typically they had less freedom than their non-royal sisters, who could own property, marry whom they pleased, and even become professional scribes and physicians. This means that a story about royal women runs the risk of being stilted and dull, focused only on children and palace intrigue. "The Sekhmet Bed" dances along the edge of this pit, and manages not to fall in primarily because the author is so adroit at keeping the focus on her heroine's visionary gifts and her inner growth as a person. By the time we reach the end of this story, where love and destiny unite in tragedy, we are thoroughly caught up in this ancient saga. I recommend it for anyone who loves a rousing good romance in exotic ancient Egypt.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good portrait of a high stakes sibling rivalry, February 16, 2013
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This review is from: The Sekhmet Bed (Paperback)
This was a solid, fast paced historical novel with a strong, well researched, exotic setting. You can quibble on some of the historical details--this period in history is not perfectly understood and there are many interpretations of the evidence out there--but by and large the setting is convincing.

Of course all the research in the world isn't going to help an author if she doesn't create plausible characters to fill it and Ironsides does just that. She incorporates the cultural attitudes and religious beliefs of ancient Egypt into the story in such a way that as a reader you understand where her characters are coming from even when their values are at odds with our own. I do a lot of internal screaming at historical novelists when their characters act in ways that a person of that time and place would not act, but when her protagonist, Ahmose, goes through a particularly self-destructive period and does some things that are not only stupid but that the Egyptians would consider heinous, I pretty much wanted to smack Ahmes upside the head and tell her to grow up. She had become very much a real person and one that I wanted to like.

The portrayal of Thutmose I, one of Egypt's great warrior pharoahs was interesting as he exhibits almost Ricky Ricardoesque frustration at the actions of his warring wives--who incidently--he can't divorce because marriage to his predecessor's daughers secures his right to rule. He could have been portrayed as a swaggering cartoon hero but Ironsides chooses to show a diplomatic and patient side that the man, a master strategist, may well have possessed in life.

Finally, the introduction of Ahmose's daughter, the hyperactive tomboy, and future pharoah Hatshepsut, who is very much daddy's little girl, sets the stage for the next book in the series. I'll be looking forward to it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended, August 24, 2012
By 
Stella Nemeth (Macungie, PA, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: The Sekhmet Bed (The She-King Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
I think this is probably this author's first published book. She succeeded in getting me to read the book right to the end, and I don't always manage that. I cared about the characters. I could suspend my disbelief long enough to finish the story. That is especially hard with a historical novel written in a period that the reader has been interested in for decades.

The author did something rather interesting with this book. She took the political fiction that Hatsheput wrote about her birth and did a "what if?" with it. What if it wasn't a political fiction? What if the mother of the heir to the throne believed that Amun Re was Hatsheput's father? The political fiction for Egypt was that their kings were the children of gods, some of the time, multiple ones. What if this particular woman truly believed that the god had visited her and had a hand in making her pregnant?

Add the interesting premise to the fact that I never cringed while I was reading the novel, and that she didn't make any really stupid mistakes which might have pulled me out of the story, and that she did a good job with the rather human problems that the three people at the heart of this book had to deal with and it has earned 4 stars.

I fully expect her next book to be better than this one, which should be fun for her readers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Look Into Anicent Egypt, January 18, 2014
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This review is from: The Sekhmet Bed (The She-King Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
Like a few others on here I was a bit skeptical of this book simply because of the fact it was independently published and I'm pretty darn picky when it comes to Ancient Egyptian historical fiction- a genre I've always felt is pretty hard to tackle. Due to the many positive reviews on here I decided to risk my $5 and was very pleasantly surprised. The book was fast paced, I enjoyed the writing style, and as I often read during my daily commute I really liked that it kept me interested in what was going to happen next but was light enough that I could stop mid-chapter and pick up easily where I'd left off.

Why only four stars? There were some little details that bothered me. First of all there were some editing errors with words missing/other words in their places. Not a big deal and I've actually read professionally published ebooks that have sinned far worse, but it does detract from the reading experience.

There were a few times in the story where I didn't like the choices Ahmose or Mutnofret were making, and without going into spoilers, I really wanted to shake them and tell them to stop acting like a bratty little children. Then I'd remember they were both in their teens and I did really stupid things when I was that old too, so I was probably just overreacting. I realize other readers probably had no problem with the way the characters acted; it was just hard for me to have characters I really liked and watch them make some pretty silly choices.

I also wish the author's style was just slightly more polished. I did really enjoy the book and never found any of the writing bad, but I just felt like something was missing to push it from good to excellent. Maybe more descriptions of the surroundings? A little more depth to characters? Longer or more complex dialogue? I can't quite put my finger on it. I think a lot of it has to do with her being a fairly new author, and I'm actually really excited to see her writing style mature as her career progresses. One tiny, nit-picky thing that drove me crazy: the author kept mentioning how big Tut's teeth were! The real Thutmose did have buck teeth so kudos to the author for bringing that into the story, but even after they were mentioned in Tut's initial description there were two or three more references to his big teeth in the first few chapters.

One thing I really appreciated was how much effort and research the author put into the book, and how honest she is about the line between artistic license vs. historical accuracy. I read her notes at the back of the book first and I'd suggest others do the same as she explains why she's using old names for cities and gods, as well as what parts of history she's taken artistic liberties with. Sure, it might spoil some of the plot a tiny bit, but I'd guess most people reading it already know the basic history of Ancient Egypt. As a reader, I'd much rather have a few plot elements spoiled in exchange for not be taken by surprise and wanting to yell at the author "Hey! That's not what happened, get your history straight!" since I'll know the author specifically made that choice to make a more exciting book.

I definitely recommend this book if you enjoy Ancient Egyptian historical fiction. Pauline Gedge is still my favorite author in the genre, but I'm excited to read the next two books in this series as well as future books from L. M. Ironside.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sensitive and beautiful story, March 17, 2014
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This review is from: The Sekhmet Bed (The She-King Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
I normally don't write reviews. That being said,I do read a lot and this writer spoke to me in a story of an Egyptian figure I have read about before. This story has done a beautiful job of putting the history of Hapsetshup(?) in focus. I highly recommend this book to everyone.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent story, January 27, 2014
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This review is from: The Sekhmet Bed (The She-King Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
There is nothing I can say about this book but good: Good plot, good dialog, good conflict, good character development. Good reading!
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