Mara, Daughter of the Nile

by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

Conditional Recommendation: A slave girl yearning for freedom plays double spy for two contenders to the Egyptian throne and the political intrigue, clever plot, and sprinkling of romance will satisfy you all the way to the end.

Age: Young Adult
Series: Stand Alone
Paperback: 279 pages
Publisher: Puffin Books (1953)

Genre: Historical

I don’t normally go for books set in ancient Egypt, but after reading this story I’m reconsidering my tendencies because I do so enjoy dangerous espionage. A friend recommended this book to me and I found it to be an unexpectedly good read. The characters are true to life, the plot exciting, and it ends with hope—key ingredients in the recipe of a good book. Some stories only see the light of day and reach readers like me because someone we know recommends them, so I hope you’ll take my recommendation and give this book a go!

Summary from the Publisher

Mara is a proud and beautiful slave girl who yearns for freedom in ancient Egypt, under the rule of Queen Hatshepsut. Mara is not like other slaves; she can read and write, as well as speak the language of Babylonian. So, to barter for her freedom, she finds herself playing the dangerous role of double spy for two arch enemies—each of whom supports a contender for the throne of Egypt. Against her will, Mara finds herself falling in love with one of her masters, the noble Sheftu, and she starts to believe in his plans of restoring Thutmose III to the throne. But just when Mara is ready to offer Sheftu her help and her heart, her duplicity is discovered, and a battle ensues in which both Mara’s life and the fate of Egypt are at stake.

Well-Conceived Plot

After a slow start as you get your bearings in the setting, I was surprised as the story picked up the pace and kept me turning pages wondering how Mara was going to get out of one sticky situation after another. And just when she decides where her loyalties lie, her deceit is found out and her role as a double spy comes to an abrupt end with consequences that endanger all the relationships she has made and the person she has become. This makes for some great suspense!

The story is told from multiple viewpoints: Mara, Lord Sheftu, Captain Nekonkh and even the Egyptian goddess Nuit of the night sky, to name a few. The various point of views are easy to follow and add suspense to the story, plus they give the reader insight and depth into each character.

Memorable Characters

I love stories where characters grow and change and this book delivered! Mara, once proud and bitter at her situation in life goes from using her cunning to further her own ends to someone who is willing to sacrifice herself for others. She was a loner until she discovered the joys of friendship and love with people, in her pride, she would have never considered.

Historical Accuracy

I’m in a book primarily for the story rather than the history, but once I’ve read a book and liked it, I do become curious how accurate the historical elements were portrayed. To quote Rebecca, a Goodreads member: “This book was written in the 50’s. As a result, we didn’t actually know much about Hatshepsut when this book was written. So take the historical accuracy with a grain of salt, but please keep in mind that the author was trying her best to be accurate with the knowledge that was available to her at the time.”

Recommendation Note

There’s some mild violence and deceit that comes with being a double spy. Even so, those are minor marks against the goodness of this book.

Where to Find this Book: Amazon* or your local library!

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