Friday, August 18, 2017


Ever since my mother got a Kindle Paperwhite of her very own and she and I joined into a single household on there, all kind of surprises await me every time I hit the "cloud" tab and start sorting through the backlog for my next read. And as I've mentioned before, my mom has pretty excellent taste in books, for all that she likes murder mysteries a lot more than I do.

She also likes historical fiction, especially about Egypt, especially about Egyptian women, so this first book of Libbie Hawker's "Book of Coming Forth by Day" trilogy probably didn't linger long on her TBR pile -- nor did it on mine, once I knew it was a thing.

House of Rejoicing is set early in the reign of the Pharaoh we mostly know as Akhenaten, and concerns itself with four women who are usually just decorative bits in the background of his story of attempted imposition of monotheism on the land of jackal-headed and crocodilian deities: his mother, Tiye, her daughter Sitamun (whom first Tiye's husband Amunhotep III and later Akhenaten himself married, and yes, Sitamun was Amunhotep's daughter, too; this is Egypt, remember? Targaryens except for real, yo), and two of Akhenaten's other wives, the famous Nefertiti (of the iconic bust) and the lesser-known Kiya.*

In the style that has become fashionable since George R.R. Martin first started singing of Ice and Fire, the story is told in point of view chapters that shift the focus among the four women, though overall this first book seems chiefly concerned with the experiences of Kiya, who serves as our naive guide into this world as she discovers how different it is from her native land, and Tiye, whose power is waning at the worst possible time. As in Martin et al, the narrative voice does not shift, as it's all written in the third person, but the experiences of the four queens are different enough to keep the reader from confusing them, and their stories are all compelling and full of convincing and appealing detail.

Being the first novel of a trilogy, House of Rejoicing mostly just lays groundwork for tensions to come. We are given a multifaceted look at the man who will be Akhenatenm, from his mother's disappointed concern to Nefertiti's disgusted scorn (she was supposed to marry his handsome and talented older brother, but he died in what might not have been an accident, of course), to Sitamun's resigned acceptance, to, perhaps surprisingly, what often seems like genuine love and affection for the man on the part of Kiya, to whom he was the only one who really paid attention when she came originally to marry Akhenaten's father. We get just glimpses of what this man's eccentricities are going to mean for his realm later on. I hope that the later books broaden the scope a bit, but only if Hawker can pull that off without losing what makes her take on these characters unique, which is largely the perspective of Kiya and what Hawker portrays as her genuine love for the young Akhenaten.

I'm down for the other two!

*Whom many have suggested might have been the same person as Nefertiti, but I think most scholars nowadays them to have been different people, with Nefertiti being a daughter of native Egyptian nobility and Kiya a foreign princess from the kingdom of Mittani. This is the history Hawker follows for these novels, anyway.

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