KIYA: Hope of the Pharaoh by Katie Hamstead
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
As the new year has begun I’ve been making an effort to clear off some of the many free and inexpensive books off my Kindle list. Some of them have just been dumped entirely because whatever caught my eye in the first place no longer holds true and the others I’m trying to give a read and review before deciding if they stay or go.
With that long explanation Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh is a book I’ve looked at several times, but hadn’t picked up until recently. I decided that I wanted something a little different and the Egyptian setting and pseudo historical bent sounded fun. This is the first in a trilogy in the classic sense of a continuing story, not a series in the same world or years apart, but one book leads into the next, etc. Hope of the Pharaoh tells the story of a Hebrew girl named Naomi who takes her sister’s place as the wife of the Pharaoh because she believes that her timid younger sister wouldn’t survive palace life.
This story sort of qualifies as historical fiction. There was a Kiya during the reign of Akhenaten and Nefertiti and there is still some question over the heritage of King Tut who followed Akhenaten. The period isn’t well documented so it leaves a lot of space for imagination and the author took advantage of that, which was fun. However, and there must be a however here, it didn’t feel like there had been a lot of research done into the accuracies of Egyptian life at that time and certainly not into Hebrew life. It felt a lot more like Egypt as seen through the Ten Commandments or other Hollywood portrayals. I never got a feel for the food and the more specific culture and rarely did we see the Pharaoh doing anything…well…Pharaohie. Instead the focus was all on his genetic deformations (which is historical) and on his role as a husband and master of the house. The Hebrew references had her partaking in restrictions and observances which weren’t brought to the Hebrew until after the time of Moses and this time period was too soon for that, though a few generations after Joseph of the famed coat of many colors. I did a lot better when I considered it a fantasy “Egypt” instead of trying to ground it in the reality.
Plotwise the book works for me. Naomi comes to the capital, is prepared to be a wife and then faces intrigue and politics which threaten her life and that of the children she hopes to have. It’s an interesting imagining of how 312 wives and concubines manage to get along while sharing one man and how kingdoms pass from one to another.
Now the big place where it didn’t work for me, and this kinda pains me to say, is the characters. I can’t think of anyone that I really felt was well rounded and well developed. Yeah, almost everyone had interesting aspects, but those paled beside the problems. Kiya is not likeable, no matter how EVERYONE except the ‘bad’ guys seems to immediately take to her. All the men lurve her and there’s a full on Love Quadrangel going on between her, the Pharaoh, a guard and the General of the city and I don’t know why any of them really think she’s all that wonderful. They call her clever, but she really isn’t, and we’re continually reminded how she’s beautiful and bigger and stronger than the other women which is supposed to be a bad thing except that it’s totally…not. Her devotion to her religion is something which comes and goes when it’s important to the plot and seems to be more about socialization and family than real belief and dedication. All in all I found her wishy washy and unreliable as a narrator and a person. And Nefertiti was portrayed much like the Wicked Witch of the West. I was just waiting for her to start with the cackling and the ‘I’ll get you my pretties’ kind of lines. She was unrelentingly evil and jealous and awful, and stupid…all traits which seem very out of step with maintaining her status as the number one wife of Pharaoh. He said she couldn’t be punished because of her royal blood, but I couldn’t believe that due to how far she went to maintain her place. No one would have blamed him except her co-conspirators who were just as guilty. So all in all, I wanted characters who were LIKE these characters but more well rounded and realistic put into this plot.
Now, a couple of other nits to pick. I like the writing in general. However, there are a LOT of modern phrases and attitudes which show up all through this book. I’d be sinking into the narrative and then something would pop out of Kiya’s mouth which would totally throw me out of the story because it sounded like a girl at the mall, not a woman in ancient Egypt, particularly an outsider in a strange land and among a strange people.
My other nit… The Pharaoh was receiving 3-4 women a night, every night and performing his duty with each of them. And later in the story he was seeing Kiya during the day as well as his nightly jaunts. All I can think is that he must have had access to some kind of super Viagra because most men cannot manage three times in a night once, much less every night with some quickies during the day too.
In the end will I pick up the next book? Eh, maybe. I don’t feel driven to know what happens to Kiya at this point and I really don’t care which of the men she ends up with because I don’t believe any of the relationships. I didn’t have to force myself to finish or give up, so it still gets a three star and I may pick up the next one on sale for some summer day, the books read quickly, but I’m not rushing to Amazon right now.
Content: There are a couple of violent and bloody scenes, descriptions of women giving birth, and a mild sex scene as well as domestic violence. Kiya gets shoved around a lot including when she’s pregnant.
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