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Sphinx's Princess (Princesses of Myth) Paperback – August 24, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Nebula Award winner Esther Friesner is the author of more than 30 novels and over 150 short stories. She is also the editor of numerous popular anthologies. She is married, is the mother of two, harbors cats, and lives in Connecticut.

You can visit Esther at www.sff.net/people/e.friesner/

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Gathering Magic almost a year after I tamed my dream-lions, during the Festival of the Inundation, my life began to change as surely as the rising river changes the deepest heart of the Black Land.

The Inundation is always a season of wild rejoicing. It’s the time when the god Hapy, fat and generous, makes the river overflow its banks to bring new life to the farmlands. A good flood means a good harvest, a good harvest means we’ll have more than enough to eat, that our Pharaoh’s reign is blessed, and that the gods love us.

That year, when I was five, the priests of every temple in the city observed the rising of the Nile and declared that their prayers had given us a good flood and a fine harvest to come. All Akhmin filled the streets to celebrate the event with music, dance, song, feasting, and gladness. Sunlight flashed from the brilliantly painted walls of the temples and the enameled gold necklaces, bracelets, and earrings of the highborn men and women. The air was filled with a wonderful jumble of delicious scents from many food vendors. Everyone seemed to be laughing. Father carried me on his shoulders so that I could have a clear view of the festivi- ties. I was pleased to be able to see everything from up so high, but when I caught sight of the older girls dancing, singing, and playing their harps, rattles, and tambourines, I squirmed like a fresh-caught fish.

“What’s the matter with you, my little bird?” Father asked, grabbing my ankles when I wriggled so hard that I nearly fell off his shoulders.

“I want to get down!” I cried. “I want to dance, too!”

He chuckled, but he didn’t let me go. “You’re not a bird anymore; you’re a kitten, wanting to pounce on anything that catches your eye. Well, little kitten, this dance is to please the gods and to thank them for all that they’ve given us. It’s a sacred thing, not a game for little girls to play at. If you want to dance for the gods someday, you will, but not now. When you’re older.”

His voice was always loud, a trait he’d kept from his days commanding Pharaoh’s troops on the battlefield. One of the dancers who was waiting her turn to perform overheard him and left her group to approach us. I gasped when I saw her: She was so beautiful! Next to her, my dearly loved Mery would have looked like a little brown hen beside a long-limbed, dark-eyed gazelle. The dancer’s eyes were artfully outlined with black kohl, the lids glittering green as the reeds along the Nile, and her lips were tinted the rich red of sunset. I stared, fascinated by the dozens of gold charms adorning her tightly braided wig, but when she smiled at me and offered me her tambourine, I worshipped her with gratitude.

While I bounced on Father’s shoulders, beating the little instrument with more enthusiasm than skill, she talked to him. At first I paid no attention to their conversation, but I soon began to feel Father’s back growing straighter and straighter, his shoulders tensing.

“That will be enough, my darling,” he said, reaching up to still my hands. “Give the tambourine back to this young woman now and thank her.” I wondered why his voice sounded so strained, the way it did whenever I’d done something wrong that was too serious for him to laugh off.

“Why so eager to be gone?” the dancer drawled, glancing up at Father from beneath lowered eyelids. “She can play with the tambourine a while longer. The child has talent as well as beauty. You should stay at least long enough to see me dance. I promise you, you won’t regret it.” She gave him a strange little half-smile.

I didn’t know what the stranger was trying to do, giving my father such odd, sidelong looks; I just knew that he ?didn’t like it and neither did I. “I’m done,” I announced abruptly, handing back the tambourine. “Thank you very much. I want to go home now.”

I saw the dancer’s lovely face turn ugly in an instant. She snatched the tambourine from my hands and muttered something under her breath. The only words I could make out were “that child . . . spoiled.”

“I didn’t spoil anything!” I protested as Father carried me off.

“And you never could,” he said fondly. “So let’s not spoil this happy day by going home too soon. There are still plenty of things to see and taste and try. Now tell me the truth, my kitten: Do you really want to go home, or did you just want to go away from that sharp-faced little dancer?”

“Away,” I said. I took a deep breath and added: “I’m sorry.”

“What for?” Father exclaimed. “For not liking her? That makes two of us.”

“But I should have liked her,” I said. “She was beautiful, and she was kind to me. She let me play her tambourine, and she said nice things about me.”

“My sweet one, beauty and favors and flattery don’t have anything to do with whether or not you should like someone. Affection isn’t something you can buy, not if it’s real. You still like Mery even when she scolds you, right?”

“I love Mery,” I said loyally. “Even if she’s not as pretty as that dancer. She was much prettier than Mery, wasn’t she, Father?”

“Hrmph.” Father coughed into his fist, or at least it sounded like a cough. “I don’t think so.”

“You don’t?” What was wrong with Father, saying something like that? Mery was nice-looking, but nowhere near as lovely as the dancer.

“No, I don’t,” he said firmly. “Anyway, there are more important things than beauty, dearest.”

“But she was prettier than Mery, wasn’t she?” I insisted.

“Let’s not worry about pretty and prettier,” Father said hastily. “And we won’t bother Mery with this. Besides, when you’re near, all the other girls look like old crocodiles. Now let’s go enjoy ourselves!” He broke into a brisk jog that made me shriek with delight as we raced back to the festival.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Series: Princesses of Myth
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (August 24, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375856552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375856556
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #210,071 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Nefertiti has had a wonderful life living with her adoring father, stepmother, and half sister. She is the beauty of her small country town situated on the Great Nile river, and has the gift of dance as well as a desire to learn to do something almost no women can do - write and read.

But Nefertiti's life soon takes a sharp curve when her aunt, the great Pharaoh's wife, decides that she is beautiful enough to wed to her son Thutmose, the crown prince of Egypt. Before she knows it, Nefertiti is torn from her home and family and living in the royal palace as a princess. Thutmose is not as nice as he has been made out to be by her aunt however and Nefertiti soon finds herself in the middle of a plot that involves Thutmose gaining power, and could endanger her own life and the lives of the ones she loves.

I'll admit it I was pretty much glued to "Sphinx's Princess" right from the start. I fell in love with Friesner's ability to bring ancient Egypt to life before my very eyes. Friesner certainly has a gift to bring the ancient world into the present for her readers. Her descriptions of the temples, the great Nile river, and the emotion she emits through her characters in their reverence for the Gods and Goddesses of Ancient times are so vivid and clear it's as if she's recalling something in a diary as opposed to writing a work of fiction. The only limits of this story were the ones put up by my own imagination. It was fantastic.

Despite her ability to bring the ancient world to life for YA as well as adult readers, I did have a problem with the ending of the book. I found the end to come to an abrupt halt. Well, that's actually too kind, it was more like the book smashed into a brick wall head on going 80 mph.
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Format: Hardcover
Sphinx's Daughter is historical fiction based in Egyptian culture with the central figure being Nefertiti, the future queen. Nefertiti is the Queen's choice for the Royal Wife of her first born son, Thutmose. Through Nefertiti, the reader explores the royal women's chambers, the power and gossip of the court, and the dangers that lurk behind a royal facade. A younger reader must have quite a bit of background knowledge of Egyptian culture and history to understand the many gods of the religion, the many wives of the Pharaoh, and the restraints on women's freedom. For that reason, I would recommend the book for 8th grade and up. Once past the beginning pages, the book reads well. The mystery and intrigue of the palace life is fast-paced. The way the book ends makes me think that this is the first book of a series (along the lines of the author's series Nobody's Prize and Nobody's Princess). Nefertiti isn't out of danger when the story ends.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
She loves them ...... She read them first when she was 9. She is now 11 and just finished another reading of them. There is a lot out there for her age....but not a lot with quality and meaningful content. These books are both entertaining and educational...like the best of historical fiction.
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Format: Hardcover
Sphinx's Princess is a fantastic read set in Ancient Egypt narrated by Nefertiti, one of the most beautiful and mysterious Egyptian queens known to the public.

The background and historical references made in this book are enormous, and as far as I know (with my limited knowledge of Egyptian history and culture) were surprisingly accurate and interesting. The one area that I was disappointed in was the music and dancing that were are so much a part of this book. Egyptian music and dancing is not anything like what we would imagine them to be and I felt that without additional descriptions the reader was given a false idea of what the dances and music were really like.

Otherwise, the clothing and household systems were beautifully described in fascinating detail. Knowing the abstact story of Nefertiti I was somewhat confused until at least halfway through the book when I began to see the strings of a plot. The plot did occasionaly wander and then suddenly reach a climax at the very end of the book. However, the timeless tale of court intrigue (Egyptian or otherwise) kept me interested and on track. The character of Nefertiti was lovingly and brightly crafted into a believable person. At times I wanted to shake her for her bold and often quick temper and at other times loudly congradulate her. This made her all the more real to me and really brought the story alive.

The ending left me feeling cheated, and I anxiously await a sequel, I also caution the reader to pace themselves as they reach the end or they will end up feeling as lost and impatient as I did (and still do). Overall, Sphinx's Princess was an interesting historical read with a believable plot that kept me excited and upbeat. It was an informative and fascinating book that I would recommend to anyone with a love of Egypt and court intrigue.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My son, a 6th grader, read this book for a school report, so this is his review: Excellent book! Reading the second one, The Sphinx Queen, on my own because I liked it so much. Chose it over other choices and very glad.
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Format: Paperback
Sphinx's Princess tells the story of the early life of Nefertiti and is written primarily for teens. The novel begins when Nefertiti is a curious four year old, learning the ways of the world she inhabits and her place in her family and society. As she grows older, it becomes apparent that she is quite smart, and she begins to question some of the cultural norms she sees around her, such as the treatment of slaves. Her brilliance catches the eye of her Aunt, Queen Tiye, who is always looking for ways to increase her power and standing. With the Queen's attention, Nefertiti's life diverges dramatically from the path she thought it was going to take and she has to learn anew how to function in society, this time the society of the Royal Court. Life in the court is nothing like Nefertiti has seen before and she quickly realizes there are dangers and intrigues around every corner.

I enjoyed learning more about a historical character I previously knew little about, but found the writing a bit simplistic as an adult reader. I think this book is geared towards younger teens and isn't really a crossover to an adult audience the way some teen books are. Still, there were some plot twists that were interesting and the Egypt of the past comes alive at points. Recommended for anyone who wants to learn about an interesting young woman, the ways she experienced Ancient Egypt, and the expectations of becoming a woman in that time.
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