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Reading Group Guide for The Heretic Queen
- Although the novel is called The Heretic Queen, Nefertari is not a heretic. So why did the author choose this title for the book? Has there ever been a time when you were accused of being something you’re not? Or a time when you were unfairly persecuted?
- The young, wild, and carefree Nefertari is very different in the beginning of the novel than at the end. Why? How does she change, and what brings these changes about? Does being an orphan force her to grow up faster?
- When Nefertari weds her childhood sweetheart, Ramesses II, the people of Egypt fear that she will be made Chief Wife and bring her aunt’s heretical policies back to Egypt. Is there a just reason for their fear? If so, why? If not, then why do they feel this way?
- Why does Iset fear Nefertari? Is it jealousy alone or something more? How do Nefertari’s feelings toward Iset evolve throughout the novel?
- In the novel, Ramesses is portrayed with red hair, similar to the Egyptian god Set. Were you surprised to learn that Egyptians were so ethnically diverse? Why or why not?
- In what ways is Ramesses a master at public relations? Are the portrayals of himself on the Wall of Proclamation accurate? If not, why would he deceive his people?
- When Ramesses charges into battle at Kadesh without waiting for the rest of his troops, the act nearly costs him the kingdom of Egypt. In what other ways is Ramesses seen to be rash throughout the novel? When does his rashness cost him? Is he capable of change? Why or why not?
- The character of Ahmoses is meant to allude to the figure of Moses in the Bible. Aside from their names, what are the other similarities between the two? Is Ahmoses a heretic? Why do the people of Egypt believe so?
- Women enjoyed great freedom in ancient Egypt, much more so than in any other contemporary kingdom. In what ways do women show surprising autonomy and power in this novel?
- What happens to Iset? Do you think she achieves happiness? What about Nefertari?