In Egypt in the 14th century B.C., two sisters are at the center of a family drama, one destined to become anointed wife of a pharaoh, bringing the family to heights of power that will endure through the ages. When the beautiful Nefertitiís intended, Tuthmosis, dies suddenly (and with some question as to his brotherís role in his demise), the nubile young bride is wed instead to the next pharaoh, Amunhotep.
Fulfilling her destiny as planned, Nefertiti is impulsive and indiscreet, with a terrible temper. Because of her lack of judgment, her younger sister, Mutnojmet, is ordered to remain always by Nefertitiís side, offering counsel. This practical and not as stunning second daughter is a willing consort for Nefertiti, soon inured to helping her sister navigate the treacherous waters of the royal household.
Of an intemperate nature himself, Pharaoh Amunhotep disdains the role of the army and ignores border incursions, envisioning himself as The Great Builder, planning to raise the minor god, Aten, in place of the beloved Amun. As the married couple moves from Thebes to Lower Egypt to await the death of Amunhotepís father, the newly crowned coregent begins elaborate plans to destroy the old god and establish the new, using the army to build a bright new city from which the pharaoh will rule all Egypt.
Impatient for his ascent to the throne, Amunhotep hasnít long to wait before his father dies unexpectedly, again raising speculation about the sonís overreaching ambition. Proud of her husbandís vision for the glorification of Aten, Nefertiti supports him, meanwhile desperately contriving to be the only object of his affection, replacing his first wife in seniority. While the first queen bears the pharaoh a son, Nefertiti is unable to do so, giving birth over the next few years to a series of winsome and articulate girls.
Ever faithful to the family cause, ďThe Sister of the Kingís Chief WifeĒ remains near the throne, indispensable to the Nefertiti. The people have not willingly accepted the destruction of the old god, and the pharaoh has exerted cruel punishments on those who fail to follow his directives, banishing Amunís priests.
The greatest test for Mutnojmet comes when Nefertiti demands her allegiance at any cost, even the loss of her unborn child and the general she loves. Bowing once more to family demands, Mutnojmet grieves for herself and her country as she watches the grand schemes of the pharaoh and his favorite queen take precedence over the well-being of the people. Amunhotep is obsessed with Atenís city, Nefertiti his willing enabler in spite of her younger sisterís advice.
Rising to unprecedented power, Nefertiti is eventually crowned Pharaoh beside her increasingly erratic husband. But it is a pyrrhic victory, the citizens revolting against Amenhotep after the plague decimates his new city: ďThey kissed his sandals just as they wished and now his people will lie dead at his feet.Ē On Moranís lush canvas of greed and ambition, it is Mutnojmetís devotion and her love of family that so humanize the years of corruption, greed, plague and civil unrest. More fortunate, Mutnojmet embraces a life unsullied by ambition, witness to the terrible price of hubris and greed.