Friday, May 25, 2018

Review - Asenath

Original Title: Asenath
Series: -
Author: Anna Patricio
Published: September 24th, 2011

Publisher: Imajin Books

What in Seth's damnable balls was he thinking?"

Well, that does it for me.
I warn you, there’s a rant review coming next. 

I shelved this book a long time ago, and only now I got to it. I think I only read it because it screamed stand alone, and I really didn’t feel like starting a new series, nor continuing with the ones I have in suspense. God, what a mistake! 

First of all, I have to admit the idea was good. The whole concept is original, and goes where no other writers have gone, that I know of, simply because there’s not a solid historical foundation around Joseph’s Egyptian wife, nor the Bible itself says much about her. I think we can all agree that it is a golden opportunity with a lot of potential, that gives an unusual amount of freedom in historical fiction. But it was wasted. It was very poorly executed, and you’ll see why.

It had a promising beginning, showing us Asenath –born as Kiya– in her home village, surrounded by her family and friends, performing rituals and playing with the other kids, right before being kidnapped. I feel like this happened for the sole purpose of killing her parents, and hence, giving her a reason to go from the village to Heliopolis, because the tribe that kidnapped her was never mentioned before, and it never gets mentioned again. There’s no explanation at all about who they are, where they came from… They only say they have a grudge against the Pharaoh, and their leader is getting his revenge by destroying Egypt one tiny bit at a time, kidnapping children and raping women. And that’s it. There’s nothing else about them.

Something that bothered me a little were the time jumps. Asenath tells the story in first person, and from the end of some chapters to the beginning of the next, years have passed. I personally don’t like when this happens, because I feel as if the author were in a hurry. But as the book went on, I couldn’t but be grateful of things moving faster, otherwise the whole thing could have been more boring than it actually was. 

I really wanted to like Asenath, but I just couldn’t. I mean, I get that she had a difficult life, but she is such a drama queen! And it doesn’t help to soften that image the fact that she falls in love with Joseph the moment she sees him. The insta-love is all over the place, and takes the center of her life, to the point that it gets truly annoying. She starts comparing every single man to Joseph, and none of them is that beautiful, or that smart, or that perfect… *eye roll*. She praises him over and over again, until I ended up yelling at my book “I get it, he’s beautiful! Please, girl, focus!”. This are just a few examples: 

– “His magical eyes held me. His beauty had the depths of evening skies. He was a song that melted hearts, brought the world to a halt and moved a rock to tears.” (Chapter 16)

– “He was like a window into another world –a world of enchantment and beauty. He was a magical hypnotic spell.” (Chapter 17)

– “I was amazed how one being could contain such a vast, nearly impossible amount of beauty.” (Chapter 18)

– “His beauty was nearly too much to bear.” (Chapter 18)

Oh my God, CALM DOWN!!!

*deep breath*

Anyway, let’s move on. After Asenath and Joseph meet in Lord Potiphar’s home, they start exchanging letters, and that’s when their bond grows. But, as I said before, Anna Patricio had all this freedom to create a whole original story, and didn’t use it. It added nothing to what’s already in the Bible. Why? Because although there’s communication between Joseph and Asenath, we don’t see it. We never get to know what is in those letters that makes Asenath fall head over heels for him (besides his physical perfection). But apparently, what they share is so deep, that the next time they see each other –in prison–, he already calls her “my love”. And how…?? *face palmage*. The letters they exchanged may be enough for them, but not for me. I won’t believe their love if you don’t at least show me the growing of a relationship between them. I get that the author tried to show us how they are soulmates because of the similarity in their stories, both losing their families at a young age, and everything… But I didn’t like how she did it. At one point, Asenath says she wants Joseph because “He… completes me”, when she never spoke of a missing piece the first place. She claims to have these deep feelings for someone she has spoken to twice, and with that, Anna Patricio created a relationship she didn’t even let me see where it came from in the first place. 

This, especially, puzzled me: “I dreamed of Lady Zalikha brandishing a sword and hacking to death everyone I loved –Joseph, Menah, the twins, my first parents, my second parents and the village mother Mekten.”

This screams insta-love. Joseph is the first one in her list. How? 

Ok. Moving on. Most of the characters that are not Asenath herself, or Joseph, feel like background noise. At one point, when the twins Nyla and Lyla die as a consequence of food poisoning, I was puzzled with Asenath’s grief. I get that they knew each other from their days in the fishing village, but I didn’t know they meant so much to her, especially because those girls didn’t have a single line of dialogue in the entire book. As for the other characters, the big main villain is Lady Zalikha, Lord Potiphar’s beautiful but resentful wife, the one who separates them when she accuses Joseph of trying to rape her. This actually happened, it is in the Bible. But in this book, it was funny how everyone knew that she was lying, because of all her resentment towards her husband –and the entire world, apparently. That’s her essence. Being resentful, and jealous of Asenath, because she’s young and beautiful, and has Joseph’s preference. Does it ring a bell? Of course it does. She’s the witch in every fairytale, and has zero redeeming qualities. And again, the freedom of creation went down the drain.

There’s a couple of scenes that really bothered me, like the one when Khasekh kisses Asenath in front of Joseph for him to reject her, and finally get to marry her. After that, there’s a scene in which she looks at Khasekh, and says: “He looked like he wanted to murder me. It really would have been better if he had. There was nothing to live for anymore.” UGH. Such a drama queen! And what a lack of trust from Joseph’s side, if he claims to love, and hence, trust Asenath! *deep breath* It’s frustrating. The whole scene is completely unnecessary, because nothing relevant comes from it.

And finally, we get to the part that I HATED the most. The anachronisms, and the writing itself. Both the prose and the dialogue are way too modern for Ancient Egypt, and that is something that can be seen all over the novel, from start to finish. It simply didn’t fit the time period. And also, there a TON of words I had to write down as I found them, that couldn’t possibly be used in Ancient Egypt (or biblical times for that matter), and made the novel lose all seriousness for me. They simply felt out of place.


– “He donned an elegant pleated kilt.” – The term “kilt” belongs to the end of the 16th century, in Scotland and England. It shouldn’t be in biblical Egypt.

– “Though I was dressed very simply, I thought I looked glamorous.” – How can a peasant girl know this word when she can’t even read or write? Plus, the term belongs around the years 1935-40.

– “I fled and found myself back in the loggia.” – Maybe the Egyptians had a similar building structure, but the term is undoubtedly Italian. Besides, the Romans built the first loggias around the year 1735. What are they doing in Heliopolis?

– “Zalikha could be a fine actress when she wanted to be.” – While there was actually theatre in Ancient Egypt, the term actress was first recorded in the year 1580. Asenath couldn’t know it. 

– “The whole thing had been so weird I did not know what to make of it.” – Asenath could not possibly use a word of Germanic origin. Couldn’t she just say “strange”?

And this one was the one that definitely, made me hate the writing style, and I just can’t get over it. 

– “There, a poker-faced man sat at a desk.” – How can this term even be in Ancient Egypt?? Biblical times, people!! How can they possibly know what this means if the term is an Americanism dating back to 1880, and refers to a card game invented in the USA, during the 19th century? 

I lost all respect for the book after this. Sorry. No. This can’t happen.

I couldn’t overlook any of these things. It simply wasn’t possible. Maybe I am very nitpicky, but when these things started appearing, they felt so out of place, I just couldn’t ignore them. It was as if they were underlined in red, I was forced to detect them.


I’m having bad luck lately. It is one bad book after another. I just hope my next one will be good, and I won’t have to write my fifth rant review this year. So, in short, the whole concept of this book is a good idea, but it is poorly executed. A little more research wouldn’t hurt anyone, if not on Asenath herself (because there’s nothing about her), at least on Ancient Egypt, in the manners of royalty, and all those aspects that fell flat, and made this book so bad. 

I have some other books in my to-read list about Ancient Egypt, and I honestly hope they are better than this one. Fingers crossed!


  1. Hmmm. I get what you are saying about the language. But when you are writing in a time period with a different language, where DO you draw the line about what is an anachronism in terms of language and what isn't? Because really, it's all one big anachronism. English is a mish mash of languages - Old English (aka Anglo Saxon, closely related to Old German), Norman French, Latin, the odd Greek word, even Norse. So what words IS the author allowed to use? It's a real problem. You say she shouldn't use weird, because it has a German origin, perhaps using strange instead. But strange is from Old French. In modern French we see étranger for something other or peculiar, or for a foreigner. (Even peculiar would be wrong in your reading because it has a Latin derivation and didn't mean quite what it means now in English) So why would a word derived from Old French be better than a Germanic word? They are each as anachronistic as the other. I do totally take your point about idioms such as poker-faced, and I'm on the fence about loggia, but I think it's a very difficult thing to outlaw particular words in the English language because the character couldn't possibly have known them. She couldn't have known any of them really. Please don't think I'm bagging you for not liking the book! You raise some other very valid points, but as a writer, this is a topic that fascinates me. I have to dodge anachronisms in writing Regency historicals, although I think the issues for any author working in the very distant past with her characters supposedly thinking and speaking in another language and in the context of an ancient culture, are far more extreme. Anyway, thanks for making me think about all this. Best, Elizabeth

    1. Oh my God, Elizabeth Rolls!! I know your books! Thank you so much for commenting! You are absolutely right about the origin of 'weird', and 'strange', it's not so much the origin of the word as it is the fact that 'weird' feels too modern, and ends up ruining the effect of the world this book is supposed to bring to life. It takes me out of the context, as it's out of place, and moreover, Asenath is practically a princess, it's a word that doesn't fit her station, or her education. I've read other brilliant historical fiction books that deal with language and the location so well that you practically feel there, and prove that it is possible. I just think that it could have been done differently to keep the tone of the book historical, and the setting, accurate.

    2. My pleasure. Your review really made me think.

    3. I can't even explain to you how much that flatters me. Thank you so much for stopping by. And if you like my reviews you can always press Follow and you'll know when I upload!