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

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Nefertiti

A Novel

by Michelle Moran

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

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I searched the chamber for Amunhotep the Younger. He was standing away from the sarcophagus and the canopic jars that would carry Tuthmosis’ organs to the Afterlife. He was taller than I was, handsome despite his light curling hair, and I wondered if we could expect great things from him when it was his brother who had always been meant to reign. He shifted toward a statue of the goddess Mut and I remembered that Tuthmosis had been a cat-lover in his life. With him would go his beloved Ta-Miw, wrapped inside her own miniature sarcophagus of gold. I touched my mother’s arm gently and she turned.

“Did they kill her?” I whispered, and she followed my eyes to the little coffin beside the prince.

My mother shook her head, and as the priests took up the sistrums she replied, “They said she stopped eating once the crown prince died.”

The High Priest began chanting the Song to the Soul, a lament to Osiris and the jackal god, Anubis. Then he snapped shut the Book of the Dead and announced, “The blessing of the organs.”

Queen Tiye stepped forward. She knelt in the dirt, kissing each of the canopic jars in turn. Then Pharaoh did the same, and I saw him turn sharply, searching for his younger son. “Come,” he commanded.

But his youngest son didn’t move.

“Come!” he shouted. His voice was magnified a hundred times in the chamber.

No one breathed. I looked at my father and he shook his head sternly.

“Why should I bow to him in obeisance,” Amunhotep asked. “He would have handed Egypt over to the Amun priests like every king that came before him!”

I gasped, and for a moment I thought the Elder would move across the burial chamber and kill him. But Amunhotep was his only surviving son, the only legitimate heir to Egypt’s throne, and like every seventeen year-old crown prince in our history, the people would expect to see him enthroned as co-ruler with his father. The Elder would be Pharaoh of Lower Egypt and Thebes, and Amunhotep co-regent of Upper Egypt from Memphis. If this son also died, the Elder’s line would be finished. The queen walked swiftly to where her youngest son stood. “You will bless your brother’s organs,” she commanded.

Why?”

“Because he is a Prince of Egypt!”

“And so am I!”

Queen Tiye’s eyes narrowed. “Your brother served this kingdom by joining Egypt’s army. He was a High Priest of Amun, dedicated to the gods.”

Amunhotep laughed sharply. “So you loved him better because he could butcher what he blessed?” He moved quickly, stooping rashly before Pharaoh. “I will become a warrior like my brother,” he swore. The hem of his white cloak trailed in the dirt and the viziers shook their heads. “Together, you and I can raise Aten above Amun,” he promised. “We can rule the way your father once envisioned.”

Pharaoh rose and held onto his walking stick as if it could support his ebbing life. “It was a mistake to raise you in Memphis,” he whispered. “You should have been raised with your brother. Here. In Thebes.”

Amunhotep stood swiftly and his shoulders straightened. “You only have me, father.” He offered his hand to the old man who had conquered a dozen lands. “Take it. I may not be a warrior,but I will build a kingdom that will stand for eternity.”

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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