I love reading novels set in Ancient Egypt. I love learning about all the pharaohs and culture through fiction. I can still remember when I first read the Ramses series by Christian Jacq. I was around 16 years old, and I dreamt of Ramses and Nefertiti for a whole year. It was the first series of novels set in Ancient Egypt I read, and I knew I wanted to read more. I even thought of becoming an Egyptologist, but life got in the way. Instead, I read beautiful novels set in Ancient Egypt and enjoy them as much as I can.
Do you know a lot about Ancient Egypt? If not, here is a short description from History.com where you can find detailed information about various periods of Ancient Egypt.
“For almost 30 centuries—from its unification around 3100 B.C. to its conquest by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.—ancient Egypt was the preeminent civilization in the Mediterranean world. From the great pyramids of the Old Kingdom through the military conquests of the New Kingdom, Egypt’s majesty has long entranced archaeologists and historians and created a vibrant field of study all its own: Egyptology.
The main sources of information about ancient Egypt are the many monuments, objects and artifacts that have been recovered from archaeological sites, covered with hieroglyphs that have only recently been deciphered. The picture that emerges is of a culture with few equals in the beauty of its art, the accomplishment of its architecture or the richness of its religious traditions.”
There is still a lot to explore and uncover about Ancient Egypt, and I must say it is exhilarating. In the meantime, we can always read novels set in Ancient Egypt and watch documentaries or films. I always prefer books over films (as you can guess!) but there are documentaries worth watching out there; check out this list from IMDB.
This list of novels set in Ancient Egypt is a mixed bag. There are first books in a series as well as standalone novels here. You’ll find mystery/thrillers novels as well as historical fiction and other genres; I believe there is a novel for everyone on this list of novels set in Ancient Egypt. I hope you’ll discover one to your liking.
Novels Set in Ancient Egypt
Ramses: The Son of Light – Christian Jacq
Historical fiction meets mythology as ancient Egypt comes alive in this monumental epic with over 2 million copies sold around the world. One of the best novels set in Ancient Egypt.
At fourteen, Ramses, the second son of the Pharaoh Seth, must begin to pass a series of royal tests designed to build his mental and physical prowess-or break him. Is Seth planning to leave the world’s most powerful empire to Ramses, and not his corrupt brother, Shaanar? Before he knows it, the younger prince is surrounded by enemies and turning to his friends: Moses, the brilliant young Hebrew; Setau, the snake charmer and mage; Ahmeni; the frail scholar; and Set and Nefertari, the two beautiful women Ramses loves.
And so begins the journey of the hero the world has yet to know… Let the saga begin. The first in Christian Jacque’s bestselling Ramses series, recounting the thrilling story of Ramses, the legendary king who ruled Egypt for more than 60 years. Ramses sets into motion a tapestry of royal intrigue, treacherous plots, and romantic adventures that will keep readers spellbound and hungry for more.
Nefertiti – Michelle Moran
One of the most popular novels set in Ancient Egypt. Nefertiti and her younger sister, Mutnodjmet, have been raised in a powerful family that has provided wives to the rulers of Egypt for centuries. Ambitious, charismatic, and beautiful, Nefertiti is destined to marry Amunhotep, an unstable young pharaoh. It is hoped by all that her strong personality will temper the young Amunhotep’s heretical desire to forsake Egypt’s ancient gods, overthrow the priests of Amun, and introduce a new sun god for all to worship.
From the moment of her arrival in Thebes, Nefertiti is beloved by the people. Her charisma is matched only by her husband’s perceived generosity: Amunhotep showers his subjects with lofty promises. The love of the commoners will not be enough, however, if the royal couple is not able to conceive an heir, and as Nefertiti turns her attention to producing a son, she fails to see that the powerful priests, along with the military, are plotting against her husband’s rule. The only person wise enough to recognize the shift in political winds–and brave enough to tell the queen–is her younger sister, Mutnodjmet.
Observant and contemplative, Mutnodjmet has never shared her sister’s desire for power. She yearns for a quiet existence away from family duty and the intrigues of court. Her greatest hope is to share her life with the general who has won her heart. But as Nefertiti learns of the precariousness of her reign, she declares that her sister must remain at court and marry for political gain, not love. To achieve her independence, Mutnodjmet must defy her sister, the most powerful woman in Egypt, while also remaining loyal to the needs of her family.
Love, betrayal, political unrest, plague, and religious conflict, Nefertiti brings ancient Egypt to life in vivid detail. Fast-paced and historically accurate, it is the dramatic story of two unforgettable women living through a remarkable period in history. This book is a popular choice among novels set in Ancient Egypt.
River God – Wilbur Smith
Fame and popularity breed envy in high places, and the adulation of the mob is fickle. they often take as much pleasure in tearing down the idols that they have grown tired of, as they did in elevating them in the first place.
It is safer by far to live unseen and unremarked, as I always attempt to do.
An ancient kingdom. An incredible destiny.
Taita is a humble slave; an expert in art, poetry, medicine, and engineering, as well as keeping important secrets, he is the most treasured possession of Lord Intef. Yet when Intef’s beautiful daughter Lostris is married to the Pharaoh, Taita is commanded to follow her, and swiftly finds himself deeper than he ever could have imagined in a world of deception and treachery.
But outside the palace, the great kingdom of Egypt is divided, and in even greater danger. Enemies threaten on all sides, and only Taita holds the power to save them all…
The first book in the epic Egyptian series. This is one of my favourite novels set in Ancient Egypt.
The Egyptian – Mika Waltari
The only Finnish novel adopted into a Hollywood film. An interesting but highly popular option among novels set in Ancient Egypt.
The protagonist of the novel is the fictional character Sinuhe, the royal physician, who tells the story in exile after Akhenaten’s fall and death. Apart from incidents in Egypt, the novel charts Sinuhe’s travels in then Egyptian-dominated Syria, in Mitanni, Babylon, Minoan Crete, Mitanni, and among the Hittites.
The main character of the novel is named after a character in an ancient Egyptian text commonly known as The Story of Sinuhe. The original story dates to a time long before that of Akhenaten: texts are known from as early as the 12th Dynasty.
Much concerned about the historical accuracy of his detailed description of ancient Egyptian life forced the author to carry out considerable research into the subject. The result has been praised not only by readers but also by Egyptologists.
Waltari had long been interested in Akhenaten and wrote a play about him which was staged in Helsinki in 1938. World War II provided the final impulse for exploring the subject in a novel which, although depicting events that took place over 3,300 years ago. If you love historical fiction, choose this among novels set in Ancient Egypt.
The Memoirs of Cleopatra – Margaret George
An excellent choice among novels set in Ancient Egypt for Queen Cleopatra fans.
The mesmerizing story of Queen Cleopatra in her own words – by bestselling novelist Margaret George, author of The Autobiography of Henry VIII and Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles.
Told in the first person – from the young queen’s earliest memories of her father’s tenuous rule to her own reign over one of the most glittering kingdoms in the world – this is an enthralling saga of ambition and power.
It is also a tale of passion that begins when the twenty-one-year-old Cleopatra, desperate to return from exile, seeks out the one man who can help her: Julius Caesar. And it does not end until, having survived the assassination of Caesar and the defeat of the second man she loves, Marc Antony, she plots her own death…
If you like first-person narration, this one is the right choice among novels set in Ancient Egypt.
The Pharaoh – Bolesław Prus
Also known as “The Pharaoh and the Priest”, Pharaoh is the fourth and last major novel by the Polish writer Bolesław Prus. It was the sole historical novel by an author who had earlier disapproved of historical novels on the ground that they inevitably distort history. Pharaoh has been described by Czesław Miłosz as a “novel on mechanisms of state power and, as such, probably unique in world literature of the nineteenth century…. It is one of the most interesting choices among novels set in Ancient Egypt.
Prus, in selecting the reign of ‘Pharaoh Ramses XIII’ in the eleventh century BCE, sought a perspective that was detached from pressures of topicality and censorship. Pharaoh is set in the Egypt of 1087–85 BCE as that country experiences internal stresses and external threats that will culminate in the fall of its Twentieth Dynasty and New Kingdom.
The young protagonist Ramses learns that those who would challenge the powers that be are vulnerable to co-option, seduction, subornation, defamation, intimidation and assassination. Perhaps the chief lesson, belatedly absorbed by Ramses as pharaoh, is the importance, to power, of knowledge. Prus’ vision of the fall of an ancient civilization derives some of its power from the author’s intimate awareness of the final demise of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795, a century before the completion of the novel. Not widely known but a beloved book for the fans of novels set in Ancient Egypt.
The Sekhmet Bed – Libbie Hawker
The first book of a series, a historical fiction among novels set in Ancient Egypt. Queen Ahmose knows her duty: to give the Pharaoh a son. But she is young and has just watched her closest friend die in childbirth. If the Pharaoh plants his seed in her she will die the same way, in a pool of blood, surrounded by wailing women. She has her husband’s love, but a king must have an heir…and even the Pharaoh’s patience will run out. Meanwhile, a lesser queen – Ahmose’s own sister – has given him three sweet, bright children, all of them boys. Ahmose knows her grasp on the Pharaoh’s heart is loosening.
Desperate, she begs the gods for courage to become a mother. They give her more than courage: she is granted a vision of a shining prince, her son – a gift for Egypt who will bring glory to the land. He will be more than the son of a king. He will be the son of the god Amun.
But when the child arrives, it’s a girl.
If you enjoy historical fiction with a little bit of romance choose this among novels set in Ancient Egypt.
Child of the Morning – Pauline Gedge
One of the best novels set in Ancient Egypt about Hatshepsut. Thirty-five centuries ago the sun had a daughter: Hatshepsut. Youngest daughter of the Pharaoh, she was a lithe and magical child. But when her older sister died, it became her duty to purify the dynasty’s bloodline. She was to wed Thothmes, her father’s illegitimate son, who was heir to the throne. But fearing his son’s incompetence, Hatshepsut’s father came to her with startling news.
She was to be Pharaoh, ruler of the greatest empire the world had ever known–provided, of course, that the unprecedented ascension by a woman did not inspire the priests to treason or instil in her half-brother and future consort sufficient hatred to have her put to death.
This is the premise for Child of the Morning, based closely on the historical facts. Hatshepsut assumed the throne at the age of fifteen and ruled brilliantly for more than two decades. Her achievements were immortalized on the walls of her magnificent temple at Deir el-Bahri, built by her architect and lover, Senmut. Sensuous and evocative, Child of the Morning is the story of one of history’s most remarkable women. One of the most popular novels set in Ancient Egypt.
Valley of the Kings – Terrance Coffey
2017 National Indie Excellence Awards Finalist
2017 International Book Awards Finalist
2016 International Pacific Book Award Winner
If you’re looking for an award-winning book, choose this one among novels set in Ancient
Egypt. After the untimely death of his older brother, six-year-old Prince Amenhotep IV becomes the unlikely heir to the Egyptian throne, the most powerful kingship in the ancient world. By the time he becomes pharaoh over a decade later, the growing influence of the wealthy and corrupt Amun priesthood threatens to undermine his sovereignty. Desperate to maintain power, Amenhotep outlaws the Amun religion, renames himself Akenaten, and proclaims himself the living incarnation of a single, all-powerful deity – the Aten, or sun. With the help of his headstrong mother, Queen Ty, and his beautiful wife, Nefertiti, Akenaten erects a new capital in the desert and entices thousands of citizens to uproot their lives and join him there.
But the magnificent new capital harbors a host of new threats: betrayals, curses, conniving relatives, murderous jealousies, plagues, famine, hidden heretics, and foreign enemies. Inspired by the Hittite and Amarna letters of the 14th century B.C.E., Valley of the Kings: The 18th Dynasty is a novel of intrigue, passion, and betrayal, resurrecting the thrilling story of a singular leader whose beliefs were both visionary and disastrous. An excellent debut among novels set in Ancient Egypt.
Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth – Naguib Mahfouz
From the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and author of the Cairo trilogy, comes Akhenaten, a fascinating work of fiction about the most infamous pharaoh of ancient Egypt. An easy choice among novels set in Ancient Egypt.
In this beguiling new novel, originally published in 1985 and now appearing for the first time in the United States, Mahfouz tells with extraordinary insight the story of the “heretic pharaoh,” or “sun king,”–and the first known monotheistic ruler–whose iconoclastic and controversial reign during the 18th Dynasty (1540-1307 B.C.) has uncanny resonance with modern sensibilities.
Narrating the novel is a young man with a passion for the truth, who questions the pharaoh’s contemporaries after his horrible death–including Akhenaten’s closest friends, his most bitter enemies, and finally his enigmatic wife, Nefertiti–in an effort to discover what really happened in those strange, dark days at Akhenaten’s court. As our narrator and each of the subjects he interviews contribute their version of Akhenaten, “the truth” becomes increasingly evanescent.
Akhenaten encompasses all of the contradictions his subjects see in him: at once cruel and empathic, feminine and barbaric, mad and divinely inspired, his character, as Mahfouz imagines him, is eerily modern, and fascinatingly ethereal. An ambitious and exceptionally lucid and accessible book, Akhenaten is a work only Mahfouz could render so elegantly, so irresistibly. If you like literary fiction choose this one among novels set in Ancient Egypt.
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Are there any novels set in Ancient Egypt that you like and not on this list? Please share with me in the comments sections below.