Review: The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt by Kara Cooney

Title: The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt

Author: Kara Cooney

Format: Audiobook

Length: 10 hrs and 23 mins

Genre: Nonfiction

Date Read: January 23, 2020

5 stars
5 stars – I loved it!

This book presents a fascinating and new perspective on the life of Hatshepsut and her rule as King. This is a biography of Hatshepsut’s life and how she came into power. Since there is first hand source material from Ancient Egypt isn’t common, Cooney is very clear that most of this is speculation and she states how she comes to these conclusions. She presents evidence, from both sides of the issue and then offers her conclusion on how she thinks things played out for Hatshepsut. 

Cooney presents a fascinating look at what royal life, and life in general, was like in Egypt at this time. The long rituals to the Gods, how easy it was to get sick and die, the openness of sexuality are all things that I have rarely seen discussed in history books about Ancient Egypt, most text seem to focus on the actions and monuments left behind not how life was really like. I found this fascinating because it was all new to me and I really want to learn more about day-to-day life in Egypt. 

Hatshepsut is the only female ruler to have ruled without assassination or coos, through times of peace, and ruled for a long period of time. She ruled for 22 years as Regent, then King (~1479-1458 BCE) but, she is not as well known as Cleopatra. This book presents a fascinating look at her rise to power, what she accomplished, what might have led to her taking the mantle of King, and why she was systematically erased from history. 

Hatshepsut’s reign was one filled with growth for Egypt. She was a prolific building and spent her whole reign building, restoring, and updating temples and monuments to the Gods and herself. She helped professionalize the priesthoods of the Gods and gave them power. She also re-established trade routes and brought back a lot of wealth to Egypt, including Myrrh trees from Punt. Her reign was truly fascinating and it is sad that she doesn’t get very much recognition for all that she did for Egypt. 

I was really fascinated with the discussion of Senenmut and Hatshepsut’s relationship. It does seem like their could have been an actual physical relationship between them since he was elevated to a high position so quickly. But since there is no actual evidence of that we will never know. I loved learning about all the different players in her reign from Senenmut, to her daughter Neferure, Thutmose III. Cooney even goes on to discuss the reign of Thutmose III after the death of Hatshepsut and how 25 years into his reign he set about removing Hatshepsut and her legacy from all of Egypt, which is why she isn’t as widely known. 

Overall, this audiobook was fascinating and Dr. Cooney does a wonderful job as the narrator. I really regret not reading/listening to this book earlier. I know I will probably re-read this book in the future. I can’t wait to start Cooney’s new book, When Women Ruled The Ancient World. 


Popsugar Reading Challenge 2020 – A fiction or nonfiction book about a world leader


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3 thoughts on “Review: The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt by Kara Cooney

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