Book Review: Child of the Morning by Pauline Gedge

Cover of Child of the Morning as seen on
Goodreads (source). Cover art by
Leo and Diane Dillon.
I finally got around to reading Pauline Gedge's 1977 novel Child of the Morning, which many people hold up as the gold standard of the Egyptian historical fiction genre. After reading it, I have to agree with them.

Child of the Morning is about the female pharaoh Hatshepsut and spans a period of 30+ years. Gedge pulls off the monumental task of making this arrogant child (and later adult) not only bearable but likable. Hatshepsut's father is determined that his daughter, the living incarnation of the god Amun, will become pharaoh after him. The only problem? The king already has a royal son, and he's backed by the High Priest. Hatshepsut is relegated to the role of chief queen and royal baby-maker. Her brother-husband lets her run the government, but Hatshepsut wants more. When her brother passes away, Hatshepsut and her loyal advisers move to supplant the heir and fulfill her kingly destiny.

If you're familiar with the history of Hatshepsut scholarship, then you've probably guessed who the antagonist is. Despite this predictability, I devoured Child of the Morning and loved almost every minute of it. There is one scene of physical confrontation between Hatshepsut and her nephew Thothmes that was too over-the-top for me. Gedge is also a bit guilty of head-hopping within scenes, and sometimes the dialogue is stilted. Because this is an older book, it reinforces a few beliefs that have since been debunked (the Heiress Theory is one example). And as with Stephanie Thornton's Daughter of the Gods, readers should know that Child of the Morning also has a theme of incestuous marriage.

Don't let any of the above criticisms prevent you from reading this novel. Just make sure you read a hard copy; the Kindle version is rife with spelling errors and oddly placed punctuation. But I suspect you'll want to own a physical copy after reading Child of the Morning.

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