Reflections in the Nile

by J. Suzanne Frank

Reviewed by Coral


Chloe Kingsley is an ex-army officer, an artist, sister to an up and coming Egyptologist and the daughter of diplomats. Having moved all around the Middle East with her parents growing up, Chloe considers herself pretty comfortable with the culture, but all that is about to change.

While in Egypt visiting her sister, to celebrate Cammy's new job, Chloe finds herself thrown back in time, her spirit now inhabiting the body of RaEmhetep, a priestess of HatHor. Confused and desperate to get home, things are complicated by the fact this "spirit-swap" has left her unable to talk. Worse still, sensing weakness, the Pharaoh Hatshepsut uses this opportunity to banish a woman she has long considered a threat, sending Chloe to her nephew Thutmosis' court, separating her from the room in which this "spirit-swap" took place and the one place Chloe believes can help her get home.

Now she's surrounded by people who see her only as the cruel, deceitful RaEmhetep - including Cheftu, a man Chloe finds herself drawn to despite her better judgement - as Egypt stands on the brink of the Exodus. But, if only Chloe were to open her eyes, and regain her voice, she may realize she's not as alone as she thinks.

This is not the type of story I usually read. If this were a fanfiction I'd avoid it like the plague, as it would almost certainly be a crappy Mary Sue where all the men would inexplicably fall for, and fight over, the most annoying woman character ever created. But I went into this with an open mind, hoping an actual published author could produce the quality lacking in the majority of Mary Sue stories.  

There's an interesting enough concept behind it, changing the time of the Exodus away from any of the Ramses' to Hatshepsut and Thutmosis' duel reign (at least a thousand years earlier if you date from Ramses I). Now I won't get into anything regarding the historical accuracy behind the Exodus, that's for theologians and historians to debate. But I will say, that having studied a lot about Ancient Egypt, I have some problems with movies and books that show the pyramids and other monuments being built by slave labour. Many of the workers tombs have been found and they were farmers who were brought in on the off-season to work on the monuments.

Anyways, a really interesting concept is wrecked by the fact Thutmosis is pretty much a caricature in his dealings with the Israelites. It would have been nice if the issue could have been dealt with in a complex, thoughtful manner, instead of just planting the banner of "good guys" down in the monotheistic corner.

Another little nitpick is the fact that Ancient Egyptians really shouldn't be using French-based words. I know it's hard to write a historical story without using words that are foreign based or modern sounding, but it's like the author didn't even try. I mean, risqué, protégé, fiancée? Come on.

I also don't think it's very realistic to have Hatshepsut walking around calling her nephew Thutmosis the Third, None of the news shows I watch add "the second" when talking about Elizabeth. I think the numbers are something tacked on by history so that we won't get confused between them.

And, I somehow doubt the debate between "Red Sea" and "Reed Sea" was raging all the way back in Napoleonic times as implied by this book.

Yet, despite all of this, this book really is a good, enjoyable read.

 

Grade: B