Egypt in the Eighteenth Dynasty seems both impossibly distant in time and disconcertingly present. Over 250 years, the dynasty produced several of the rulers best known to modern Western culture: Akhenaten and his wife Nefertiti, Tutankhamen (Tut), and Hatshepsut, the most famous of the handful of women who ruled Egypt as pharaoh.
The Sekhmet Bed begins a few years before Hatshepsut’s birth, with the death of Pharaoh Amenhotep I in 1503 BCE. He leaves two daughters, Mutnofret and Ahmose, to marry—and therefore legitimate—the next pharaoh. The marriage surprises neither of them, but in an unexpected twist the thirteen-year-old Ahmose is proclaimed Great Royal Wife while her older sister has to settle for second place. Mutnofret does not take her perceived demotion lying down, and she uses her greater maturity to seduce the pharaoh. She is soon fulfilling the main obligation of a queen: to bear royal sons. But Ahmose, a visionary, has the ear of the gods—the reason she received the title of Great Royal Wife in the first place. And the gods will decide whether Ahmose or her sister will bear the next pharaoh.
The Sekhmet Bed is the first of four books that trace Hatshepsut’s rise to power, the obstacles she faces in assuming the throne, the long and prosperous reign that follows (1479–1458 BCE), and its aftermath in the reign of her successor. Libbie Hawker brings this long-gone but fascinating period alive in a tale of two sisters forced into conflict by the need to secure an empire and a dynasty.