I enjoyed the first third of this novel but unfortunately was left less than dazzled for the remainder. I rather enjoyed the author's notes in the back of the book, which is probably proof that I prefer Ancient Egypt more as non-fiction, and I agreed with her choices when it came to names and such. However, I think what ultimately resulted in my not liking the book was the author's choice of making Mutnofret the sister of Ahmose, in this case because she liked the tension it created. I, for one, disliked the tension it created. Overall, the relationship between Ahmose and Mutnofret overpowered any other possibility for the novel and reminded me greatly of Michelle Moran's AE novels (not, in this case, a good thing).
First of all, I felt as though the first third of the novel was best because it included the least amount of drama (especially the baby kind) and included the characters I liked most: Nefertari and Meritamun. These two were by far the most convincing characters, both exuded strength and capability and I wish they had been more present in the novel. Either one of these characters would have resulted in a more interesting novel, Meritamun battling her disease or Nefertari's general strength and fortitude. Of course there may be less information on them historically, but as characters they were the clear winners.
As for Ahmose, our main character, I liked her in the beginning prior to being married. However, the person chosen because she was level-headed unlike her fiery sister proved not to be so throughout the novel. I'm not sure if this was accidental or a purposeful choice by the author, but I would have much preferred a stronger and more consistent character. Ultimately the relationship between Ahmose and Mutnofret proved the undoing as it was the majority of the focus. This is where I felt as though a non-relation, or even a more distant relation, would have been beneficial. The novel could have concentrated on Ahmose coming into her own as a woman and a queen. In the end, there was just too much baby drama lurking throughout the pages and it stifled growth, except for the uterine kind. Also, while I do enjoy AE religion I felt as though the god-talking and dreaming was too heavy-handed and made Ahmose less of reliable narrator for me personally (could be my atheism talking here).
The aforementioned baby drama is most likely where I took the most stars off because for me personally it is absolutely unenjoyable. Ultimately I have no interest in listening to characters talk about wanting babies, being pregnant, going into labor or raising the children. I know, I'm a rare breed but I truly find it uninteresting and unappealing. Now, as it is a part of life I can handle a dash here or there but when it is a main focus the book ultimately can not keep my interest. So the ever-present baby drama in The Sekhmet Bed was disappointing, largely due to the relationship between sisters. It also relegated Tut, the Pharaoh, to a lust/romantic role much like the future Pharaoh in Michelle Moran's books was treated. If Tut was even present (he was largely away at war), he was shown having or wanting sex, and with his children. Why did we never see him rule (and being away battling doesn't count as he is just a placeholder character then)? I wish Tut had been more than just a tug of war toy between the sisters.
There was ultimately too limited a focus for the novel due to the baby drama, which is disappointing. There is so much to AE, so much that can be done, that to have a time period be reduced to "chick-lit" level drama was disappointing. I wish the author had focused more on ruling Egypt and describing AE as a whole, rather than describing labor and a terrible relationship between sisters.
Also, Hatshepsut as a child was rather unlikable and it made me concerned about how she will be as an adult in this series. The Hatshepsut depicted here could easily grow to be the unlikable ruler that is so often seen in NF and historical fiction based on her (which I don't feel she was likely to be). I also felt as though the choices made my Ahmose in pushing Hatshepsut in a certain direction in terms of gender were ultimately wrong, and not just in a modern day gender equality way (although I do quite believe in that). Why not just allow her to grow into being herself if she was so confident of her kas? I think a more convincingly strong leader would grow from a child allowed to choose for herself and be herself.
Ultimately The Sekhmet Bed failed to impress me due to the narrow viewpoint of the story. I would have much preferred more of the greater AE than the palace intrigue. Overall, the story will appeal to many people, people that enjoy babies, pregnancies and sister relationship drama more than this girl does. As they say, no two persons ever read the same book.