Book Review: Daughter of the Gods by Stephanie Thornton

Posted February 12, 2015 by Renae // 2 Comments

Book Review: Daughter of the Gods by Stephanie Thornton

Title: Daughter of the Gods
Author: Stephanie Thornton
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: New American Library

Summary from Goodreads:

Egypt, 1400s BC. The pharaoh’s pampered second daughter, lively, intelligent Hatshepsut, delights in racing her chariot through the marketplace and testing her archery skills in the Nile’s marshlands. But the death of her elder sister, Neferubity, in a gruesome accident arising from Hatshepsut’s games forces her to confront her guilt...and sets her on a profoundly changed course.

Hatshepsut enters a loveless marriage with her half brother, Thut, to secure his claim to the Horus Throne and produce a male heir. But it is another of Thut’s wives, the commoner Aset, who bears him a son, while Hatshepsut develops a searing attraction for his brilliant adviser Senenmut. And when Thut suddenly dies, Hatshepsut becomes de facto ruler, as regent to her two-year-old nephew.

Once, Hatshepsut anticipated being free to live and love as she chose. Now she must put Egypt first. Ever daring, she will lead a vast army and build great temples, but always she will be torn between the demands of leadership and the desires of her heart. And even as she makes her boldest move of all, her enemies will plot her downfall...

This is my second novel by Stephanie Thornton, and with it, she has rocketed her way to the very top of my shortlist of favorite historical fiction writers. Daughter of the Gods is well-written, well-researched, exciting, and fascinating—all things that I love to see in my historical fiction. The fact that Thornton focuses on Hatshepsut, one of the greatest pharaohs of the Ancient Egypt, and who happened to be a woman, just added to this book’s appeal.

I’ve had a major interest in Hatshepsut ever since I read about her in my 5th grade history class, though her “section” was maybe a sentence or two that was easily missed and forgotten. Of course, one of Thornton’s great motivations in writing historical fiction to to bring to life the stories of great women who history has let fall from center stage—we saw this with Empress Theodora’s story in The Secret History, and we see it again with Hatshepsut in Daughter of the Gods. The woman-positive aspects of this book are without a doubt my favorite. Hatshepsut, as portrayed by this author, is complex and nuanced and extremely well-drawn, as are several other female characters throughout the book. That’s another nice thing about Thornton’s writing: not only does she tell the stories of great women in history, she fills her books with positive relationships between women that are undeniably authentic in their complexity. We see this particularly between Hatshepsut and her sister wife, Aset.

The sheer amount of research that went into the writing of Daughter of of the Gods is also in full evidence. The life of these high-ranking Egyptians in 1400’s BC is full of facts and descriptions that in no way bog down the text or distract from the story at hand. Thornton offers her readers a full and wide view of the time period, from architecture to food to clothes to religion. The end result is a fantastic portrayal of a place and time long forgotten. I love historical fiction because of this aspect, the ability to see into the past with such striking clarity, all while consuming a (hopefully) engaging story. It’s the perfect combination of nonfiction and drama.

The story itself is extremely good, and quite well-told. Hatshepsut, as the younger daughter of Pharaoh Thutmose I, expected that her life would be free and without complication. But her older sister Neferubity’s tragic death pushes her to do her duty to the dynasty and marry her half-brother, Thutmose II, to bear sons of pure royal blood. Unfortunately, Hatshepsut has a daughter instead of a son, and her brother dies young, leaving two children: Hatshepsut’s daughter, and a son by a common woman, the future Thutmose III. By default, Hatshepsut becomes regent for her two-year-old nephew/stepson, but she longs to be Pharaoh in her own right. So she seizes the throne and becomes one of the most effective leaders Egypt ever had, continuing the great Golden Age that began with her father. I mean, this is amazing stuff, right? It’s even better when you consider the reality and personal relationships that Thornton brings to Daughter of the Gods. Not only does this book bring to light the life of a great woman, it takes the myth of Hatshepsut and gives her a human face. Hatshepsut’s character is fully realized and three-dimensional, and the reader can understand not only her personal accomplishments, but her failures, friends, loves, and desires as well. The whole picture is provided in this book.

Altogether, this book was phenomenal: the complete package. Everything I love to see in my historical fiction was provided here. Strong characters, fantastic attention to detail, engaging prose, an excellent storyline. Daughter of the Gods really excels in every area, and Stephanie Thornton has firmly cemented herself as an author whose career I plan to follow with interest. This book was phenomenal.

Renae has written book reviews and other miscellany for Respiring Thoughts since 2012. She loves dogs, Mexican food, mountains, Shakespeare, and procrastinating. She's currently working on an undergrad degree in English/Spanish lit in the Midwest. Connect with Renae on Twitter, Goodreads, and Tumblr.

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2 responses to “Book Review: Daughter of the Gods by Stephanie Thornton

  1. Jemma

    Sounds excellent! I’ve been longing for a good Egyptian historical novel for a while now, but couldn’t decide what sounded best. Your review has swayed me – onto the wishlist it goes 🙂

  2. I have set myself on a mission to read more historical books this year, because I always enjoy them and I don’t read them enough. I’ve had my eyes on Thornton’s other book for a while now, but I think I’m going to give this one a try. I haven’t read many books set in Egypt and Hatshepsut sounds like an amazing woman I want to know more about.
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