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 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.
Setting: Ancient Egypt
"Look out for yourself my girl. Nobody else will."
The first time I met Mara, my mother sat down in the living room, cracked open a well-worn copy with the haunted picture of a lonely maid on the front cover, and began reading the story aloud to me and my little brothers and sisters right before bed. I am sure it was a pretty picture, all five of us cuddled up in thick, warm comforters, mugs of hot chocolate cradled in our little hands, wide-eyed listeners to a story of a land far away.
I don't know how many books my parents read aloud to me as a child. They are too numerous to count.
But one thing I do know.
Mara stuck with me.
Mara is proud. She is strong. She is witty. She lives in a world that is cruel and ruthless. She knows nothing of kindness and sympathy. And she pretends she needs none of it.
The character of Mara is solid flesh and blood. Her tears, her struggles, her victories, are living and breathing inside you. Her spirited fire and wit sends you into peals of laughter and keep you on pins and needles to find out how she will finagle her way out of the next peril. Danger is real. Mara flirts with death.
The things is, she knows it, and laughs in its face.
I have read almost all of Eloise Jarvis McGraws young adult fiction and have come to one conclusion. She uses a link to the emotions of her readers that is at once invisible and powerful. Every desire in her characters is a fire-breathing dragon in your belly. Her writing leaves you sitting up late, a flashlight clutched in a sweaty palm, glued to the pages. It is a style that captures sudden and permanent interest.
Mara, Daughter of the Nile, is written in a way that will never die. Her vivid descriptions of the cities, palace, river, and whole of Egypt settle you deep into the place where your characters live. You see The Silver Beetle, the ship that carried Mara on the Nile, you see the labyrinth of palace Hatshepsut calls her court, you see the inn where the rebels meet. You can almost reach out and touch the rooms where Mara lives.
Historically, the books is flawlessly accurate, allowing for some storyline liberation's (there was no little blue-eyed interpreter that saved the throne of Thutmose III). The very fact that history is sketchy of just what did happen between Hatshepsut and Thutmose proves what a masterful storyteller McGraw is. The Black Land is as real to us as it is to Mara and those trapped in that hot summer month where rebellion takes its final step.
Mara is not a romance book. I am not particularly fond of too perfect young men and weepy, desperate girls. The romantic angle of this book is both unusual and intriguing. And the story does not focus on the emotions beginning to stir in the hearts of the characters, but rather on what is bringing them together.
The real heart and soul behind Mara is found tucked in golden lines scattered throughout the book. This is a book about deciding what is worth fighting for, living for, and dieing for.
Mara is a book you will always find on my bookshelf. It is one to leave deep and lasting marks on your heart.