Excerpt from Nefertiti by Michelle Moran, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Novel

by Michelle Moran

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  • First Published:
    Jul 2007, 480 pages
    May 2008, 496 pages

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Tiye hesitated.

“It’s fine,” Tuthmosis promised.

The two princes of Egypt watched their mother go, and only Anubis, who weighs the heart of the dead against the feather of truth, knows for certain what happened after the queen left that chamber. But there are many viziers who believe that when judgment comes, Amunhotep’s heart will outweigh the feather. They think it has been made heavy with evil deeds, and that Ammit, the crocodile god, will devour it, condemning him to oblivion for eternity. Whatever the truth, that night the crown prince, Tuthmosis, died, and a new crown prince rose to take his place.

1351 BCE

Peret, the Season of Growing

When the sun set over Thebes, splaying its last rays over the limestone cliffs, we walked in a long procession across the sand. In the twisting line that threaded between the hills, the viziers of Upper and Lower Egypt came first, then the priests of Amun, followed by hundreds of mourners. The sand cooled rapidly in the shadows. I could feel the grains between the toes of my sandals and when the wind blew under my thin linen robe I shivered. I stepped out of line so I could see the sarcophagus, carried on a sledge by a team of oxen so the people of Egypt would know how wealthy and great our crown prince had been.

Nefertiti would be jealous she’d had to miss this.

I will tell her all about it when I get home, I thought. If she is being nice to me.

The bald-headed priests walked behind our family, for we were even more important than the representatives of the gods. The incense they swung from golden balls made me think of giant beetles, stinking up the air whichever way they went. When the funeral procession reached the mouth of the valley, the rattling of the sistrums stopped and the mourners went silent. On every cliff families had gathered to see the prince, and now they looked down as the High Priest of Amun performed the Opening of the Mouth, to give Tuthmosis back his senses in the Afterlife. The priest was younger than the viziers of Egypt, but even so men like my father stood back, deferring to his power when he touched a golden ankh to the mouth of the figure on the sarcophagus and announced, “The royal falcon has flown to heaven. Amunhotep the Younger is arisen in his place.”

A wind echoed between the cliffs and I thought I could hear the rush of the falcon’s wings as the crown prince was freed from his body and ascended to the sky. There was a great amount of shuffling, children looking around the legs of their parents to see the new prince. I too craned my neck.

“Where is he?” I whispered. “Where is Amunhotep the Younger?”

“In the tomb,” my father replied. His bald head shone dully in the setting sun, and in the deepening of the shadows his face appeared hawkish.

“But doesn’t he want the people to see him?” I asked.

“No, senit.” His word for little girl. “Not until he’s been given what his brother was promised.”

I frowned. “And what is that?”

He clenched his jaw. “The co-regency,” he replied.

When the ceremony was finished soldiers spread out to stop commoners from following us into the valley, and our small party was expected to walk on alone. Behind us, the team of oxen heaved, pulling their cargo across the sand. All around us cliffs rose against the darkening sky. “We will be climbing,” my father warned, and my mother paled. We were cats, she and I, frightened of places we couldn’t understand, valleys whose sleeping Pharaohs watched from secret chambers. Nefertiti would have crossed this valley without pause, a falcon in her fearlessness, just like our father.

Excerpted from Nefertiti by Michelle Moran Copyright © 2007 by Michelle Moran. Excerpted by permission of Crown Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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