One of my first thoughts about this book was that it had insta-love. The protagonist, Ahmose, falls in love with the general Thutmose upon their first meeting and marries him shortly after. Fortunately, however, romance was not the focus of the book, and it was actually a much richer narrative than I expected from that not-so-lofty beginning.
Ahmose is the second, younger daughter of a pharaoh who left no heirs upon his death. Thutmose is named pharaoh by Ahmose's mother, the queen, and her grandmother, who occupies a lofty, powerful position called the God's Wife. Ahmose, who is thought to be god-chosen and can interpret dreams and omens, is wed to Thutmose as the Great Royal Wife in order to help give legitimacy to his reign. Her older sister Mutnofret, the woman who was always supposed to be Great Royal Wife, is wed to Thutmose as his second wife. The story follows this family, particularly Ahmose, as they struggle through a difficult time in Egypt. Mutnofret is a viper, and terrifies Ahmose with violent stories of sex so Ahmose will refuse to lie with Thutmose, so she will not bear any children and Mutnofret will be able to oust her from her position. Thutmose is gone most of the time, and Ahmose is left alone to deal with Mutnofret and with the struggles of ruling Egypt in her husband's absence. There is romance, but it is not the focus of the story; rather, the story focuses on Ahmose's struggles both politically and personally, and her maturation is easily seen through the progression of the book.
I'm not an expert on ancient Egypt, but it seems like Ironside (a penname, I presume) has done her research. She does include a little section at the end which details the areas in which she has speculated on history or deviated from known history, and that's quite admirable. Her writing is very rich and detailed, giving her Egypt a beautiful life on the page. All of her characters were multi-dimensional, not just Ahmose; even one of Mutnofret's maids, a very minor character, has multiple dimensions. The only real complaint I have is that there is an episode in which Thutmose turns downright abusive toward Ahmose, and yet there are not any real consequences for his actions. I mean, I guess you could say there are divine consequences, but I would have liked to see some backlash from Ahmose herself, rather than her remaining a relatively complacent wife. While the incident doesn't exactly glorify abusive relationships, it doesn't exactly frown upon them, either, being as Ahmose instantly forgives Thutmose for his actions. Literally instantly. On the same page as the abuse.
With that in mind, however, this was a great read, and I'll probably return to the other books in the series.
4 stars out of 5.