Monday, December 15, 2014

Review: Mara Daughter of the Nile - Eloise Jarvis McGrew

Mara Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Published on October 1, 1985
Published by Puffin
Pages: 279
Read From: 11.27.14 - 12.12.14

Mara is a proud and beautiful slave girl who yearns for freedom. In order to gain it, 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.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? The cover art is, unfortunately, dated, and it would be nice is someone gave it better cover art. As far as dated covers go, though, this one isn't horrible.

Characters: Mara is a spitfire is ever one existed. Sometimes it made it a little hard to feel sorry for her, as her indiscretion caused a lot of her own problems. But at the same time, I had to cheer her on for defusing to be bowed and humbled by anyone. She was going to fight and rebel no matter how badly she would be beaten for it, and I admired her spirit - no matter how unwise it sometimes was. Sheftu took some getting used to, as his ability to don any facade he chose made me totally distrust him. I didn't like his arrogance, even if it was pretend; he did it too well. But after a while, as I got to know the real Sheftu better, I liked him more and more. Nekonkh, the barge captain, was awesome. A rather minor character, he might have been my favorite. He was loyal to Sheftu, but he also called him on things; urged Sheftu to check his hand before letting it fly. I loved him for it. And then there was Inanni, the lonely Canaanite princess far from her home, thought simple by everyone - including Mara - but was much more intelligent and resourceful than anyone gave her credit for. My heart went out to Inanni.

The Romance: Is not as prominent as the synopsis makes it out to be. Not even nearly. And it's a really sweet romance. It's pretty fast because the book isn't very long, but it still somehow came across as deep and heartfelt. And it was simple and sweet and wonderful.

Plot: Mara doesn't know who her parents were, though her exquisite beauty and strange blue eyes have led many to assume that she was once a noble-born girl stolen into slavery. She certainly has the airs and graces of a noblewoman, and a spirit that makes for a very unruly slave. Mara is insolent once too many and finds herself sold to a mysterious master who wishes to set her up as a spy in the royal court of Hatsheput. She will travel as the translator for the Canaanite princess who is to marry the pharaoh's half-brother Thutmose III, and her job is to find the traitor who is planning a rebellion against Hatsheput and put Thutmose on the throne. But Mara is unwillingly caught up with the very person who is plotting against Hatsheput. She must pretend to be his spy if she wishes to save herself. But as Mara finds herself more and more caught between the two arch enemies, she finds herself growing sympathetic towards the rebels their noble leader, Sheftu. It's a deadly game she's playing, and if either side discovers her duplicity, it will be the end of her. But how can someone as quick-witted and clever as Mara even hope to win this game? Intrigue, rebellions, the rightful heir to the throne, duplicity, Ancient Egypt, spying - some of my favorite topics for books. Mash it all together and you get one of the most thrilling historical fiction/court intrigue novels in the YA genre. Added to it are complex characters, doses of history, and a stunning Egyptian backdrop painted with such vividness, it's like you're actually there. And the entire time, you wonder: how is Mara going to pull this off? When will she be discovered? What will happen then?

Believability: One complaint: Mara's name. A Hebrew name. It's made clear that Mara is Egyptian. And blue eyes? Really?

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. Books just aren't written like they used to be. Mara Daughter of the Nile is a pretty old book - considered a classic, in fact. And the writing style is like nothing that is written now. It's beautiful and poetic and extremely picturesque.

Content: None.

Conclusion: That ending!! It worked super well, and I really wasn't sure how it was going to turn out. But. . . .no sequel? Or at least an epilogue? Just a bit more? Please?! I've wanted to read Mara Daughter of the Nile for a while, and just never got around to it. So glad I have now! Because it was a terrific book. Great characters, awesome plot, and a perfect setting. It reminded me of why I was so obsessed with Egypt as a kid.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, fifteen-and-up, fans of historical fiction.


  1. Did this one by any chance catch your eye because of the name in the title? ;)

    1. Actually no. I hate it when characters have my name. Thankfully, all of the fictional Maras I've met have been unbelievably awesome. But I still hate it.


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