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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Silence in the Stone by Lauren Lee Merewether is the fourth and final book in the historical fiction ancient Egyptian series The Lost Pharaoh Chronicles, preceded by book one, Salvation in the Sun, book two, Secrets in the Sand, and book three, Scarab in the Storm. The series brings to life the multi-generational evolution of Egypt's royal succession, a resurrection of Pharaohs whose stories have been blotted out. This last installment opens in the aftermath of death and a continued power struggle for the future. Nefertiti is dead. The former Commander and current Pharaoh Horemheb sits on the throne with his queen Mutnedjmet “Mut” begrudgingly by his side. He is the last to reign in Egypt's18th Dynasty. At the urging of the priesthood of Amun, Horemheb recites the oral history of his rise, revealing the story of his predecessor and father-in-law, Pharaoh Ay, and granddaughter Ankhesenamunas—the last act before damnatio memoriae: a scrubbing of all accounts of the Amarna Period.
Silence in the Stone is a wonderful re-imagining of the names lost to history, and Lauren Lee Merewether is dedicated in the depictions and narrative, making the landscape as comfortable to visualize as possible. While the plot is firmly set in court intrigue and a never-ending, almost desperate series of power grabs, it is the romance and struggles of those caught in a snare that humanizes the story and makes the characters relatable. I did find some of the conversations and ideas lapsed into a more contemporary colloquy, but these are easy to forgive as they are balanced with the authentic accounting of the price women were forced to pay as pawns in the marriage market and manipulation through dishonesty and abuse. Hatshepsut and Nefertiti persevered to the highest rank only to have their names and images destroyed. The memory of Nefertiti is prominent in Silence in the Stone where reminders of her continue to haunt and inspire Horemheb, her sister Mut, and her daughter Ankhesenamunas. Merewether is a master of detail and a true storyteller, the likes of which I haven't read in the genre since an initiation to Michelle Moran and L.M. Ironside. Very, very highly recommended.