Friday, September 18, 2009

Michelle Moran Week - Review of Cleopatra's Daughter

The marriage of Marc Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, a tale of unbridled passion with earth-shaking political consequences. Feared and hunted by the powers in Rome, the lovers choose to die by their own hands as the triumphant armies of Antony’s revengeful rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt. Their three orphaned children are taken in chains to Rome; only two– the ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander–survive the journey. Delivered to the household of Octavian’s sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt. As they come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian’s family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires deep within their own hearts.

The fateful tale of Selene and Alexander is brought brilliantly to life in Cleopatra’s Daughter. Recounted in Selene’s youthful and engaging voice, it introduces a compelling cast of historical characters: Octavia, the emperor Octavian’s kind and compassionate sister, abandoned by Marc Antony for Cleopatra; Livia, Octavian's bitter and jealous wife; Marcellus, Octavian’s handsome, flirtatious nephew and heir apparent; Tiberius, Livia’s sardonic son and Marcellus’s great rival for power; and Juba, Octavian’s watchful aide, whose honored position at court has far-reaching effects on the lives of the young Egyptian royals.

Selene’s narrative is animated by the concerns of a young girl in any time and place–the possibility of finding love, the pull of friendship and family, and the pursuit of her unique interests and talents. While coping with the loss of both her family and her ancestral kingdom, Selene must find a path around the dangers of a foreign land. Her accounts of life in Rome are filled with historical details that vividly capture both the glories and horrors of the times. She dines with the empire’s most illustrious poets and politicians, witnesses the creation of the Pantheon, and navigates the colorful, crowded marketplaces of the city where Roman-style justice is meted out with merciless authority.

Based on meticulous research, Cleopatra’s Daughter is a fascinating portrait of imperial Rome and of the people and events of this glorious and most tumultuous period in human history. Emerging from the shadows of the past, Selene, a young woman of irresistible charm and preternatural intelligence, will capture your heart.
From Random

It is hard to believe that this is Michelle's third book. That means that we have known each other for three years! And, what a great three years that has been. I received an ARC of Nerfertiti back when it was still a bit unusual to receive ARCs. Nowadays, everyone does it, but it did used to be a bit harder to accomplish. I don't even remember what the circumstances were, but I was so excited to read the book. I love Egyptian history, but don't really nearly enough of it. I am so glad that I said yes, though, because reading that book has lead to me reading three great books by a very nice person who has become a friend. This is the second year for Michelle Moran Week and the third year that she has appeared on my blog in some capacity. Now, on to the actual review!

Cleopatra's Daughter was another great novel from Moran. I only just finished it yesterday, so this review is a bit late. September has been busy, but I did finish it! That's the important thing, right! When I invite Michelle to appear on the blog it is months before her book is out, so I never really know what to expect. The big thing for me and this book is I actually knew the story, but not from the point-of-view of Selena. The novel built on my knowledge and last night after finishing it I was discussing what I knew and what I learned with one of my friends. There were several times through the book that I learned something new and thought about it, and for me that is what a good historical fiction book is supposed to do. It will lead me to pick up a non-fiction book for comparision, too, so then I support the book industry. It's a full-circle act.

The novel is told from the point-of-view of Selena. She grows through the book. Her childhood was wonderful, but then her parents both died. She was taken to Rome, along with her two brothers, to be figureheads for Octavian's cause. They actually lived with Octavia, Octavian's sister and the ex-husband of Mark Antony, which was a little strange but Octavia appeared to hold nothing against them. Even though the story was told by Selena, I still felt that we got to know the other characters through her and by the end I had a sense of who they all were. Octavian was written a lot like I always expected him to act. Same with his sister. She was in many ways the exact opposite of her brother. It actually worked well for them, though, because one saw what the other would likely miss. Octavian's daughter, Julia, was spoiled but had also suffered through her young life. You both found her annoying and felt for her throughout the book. There were a lot of characters I only slightly knew existed, so I learned a lot about them.

This book covers the highs and lows of Selena's life. You really experience her emotions through the pages and feel for her at the right times. I really liked her. Michelle portrayed her wonderfully and made me love her by the end. Even though I knew how things were going to end, I have to say that I loved the ending. It was perfect, in my opinion. Anything other than would really spoil things. I think this book will appeal to those that love historical fiction, but really it is is a book for many people. It has a readable style and it doesn't get bogged down with facts. I recommend this book strongly and hope lots of people take a chance on it and enjoy it.


  1. Last year I read a novel about Cleopatra called When We Were Gods by Colin Falconer and I thought it was such a fascinating portrait of Cleopatra...not as a sexy vixen but as a political figure, a ruler, and a mother. Of course it ends when she dies so I was always curious what happened to her children. I can't wait to read Michelle's novel. Thanks!

    nycbookgirl at gmail dot com

  2. Thanks for all of the wonderful and interesting posts this week about Michelle Moran and specifically Cleopatra's Daughter. I have enjoyed reading them all. Looking forward to reading Cleopatra's Daughter very soon!