Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hetaera: Daughter of the Gods by J.A. Coffey

She was the original Cinderella...

Doricha is twelve when her father is murdered by a roving band of Greeks. Betrayed by a jealous priestess and sold into slavery, headstrong Dori loses her most valuable possession-her freedom. She hopes that one day she can truly be free, but not even Aesop, her mentor, can protect her. The harsh world of classical Greece has little use for the minds of women, and she finds her body traded to another owner, who transports her to a new life of luxury and political turmoil in the faraway deserts of Egypt. All she has to do is be beautiful, all she has to do is love him, and she will be kept safe.

The problem is, Dori doesn't want to be kept--by any man. Not even the god-king Amasis, Pharaoh of Egypt.

From the ancient Thracian temple of the Bacchae to the exotic lands of Egypt where political intrigue coils like a nest of asps, Dori learns that fulfilling her father's dying wish is not about bands around her wrists so much as it is bands around her heart. Based on persons and historical events of 26th dynasty Egypt, HETAERA fictionalizes the life of Doricha/Rhodopis--a most extraordinary woman who changed the world.

Hetaera by J.A. Coffey is a novel adapted from the story of Rhodopis, the first, and an ancient version of the Cinderalla story that was first recorded in the 1st century BCE by a Greek historian named Strabo. Doricha is a Greek slave girl in Egypt who suffers abuse by her fellow slaves. She is beautiful, but has big feet. It is her talent for dancing that catches the eye of a kindly elderly master. She falls in love with a young shoemaker who gifts her an exquisite, unique pair of red slippers before taking advantage of her. Then he suddenly disappears from her life, leaving Doricha devastated and heartbroken. The Pharaoh initiates a great feast for the kingdom, Doricha is prevented from attending by other slave girls. While at the river, a falcon snatches one of her red slippers, flies off with it, and drops it in Pharaoh’s lap miles away. Intrigued and believing it a sign of good fortune by an Egyptian God, he sets out to discover its owner. And of course, as the only woman with feet large enough to fit the slippers perfectly, Doricha rises from slave to the highest ranking woman in Egypt – the Pharaoh’s Great Royal wife.

The Cinderalla fairy tale-ish background does not negatively impact the realistic feel of this novel. Well researched, with oodles of historical details, make this a believable tale. There is plenty to like in this story – unrequited love, horrendous abuse, great love, danger, and plenty of plot twists that kept me entertained to the end. Legendary personalities such as Aesop and Sappho play prominent roles in the novel. Vivid descriptions, memorable characters, and a poignant love story make this a fascinating novel to read. Highly recommended for those who love Ancient History and books about Egypt.

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