Monday, September 14, 2009

Cleopatra's Daughter - Michelle Moran


Cleopatra’s Daughter
Michelle Moran
Crown

Historical Fiction

In 30 BC, Octavian’s Roman forces take over Egypt and the lovers Marc Antony and Queen Cleopatra take their own lives rather than become prisoners, paraded through Rome’s streets. That leaves their children, the twins Alexander and Selene (10) and little Ptolemy (6) as the heirs of a conquered nation. Octavian, seeking to show mercy, takes the children back to Rome with him. Little Ptolemy doesn’t survive the trip, but the twins arrive safely and are housed with Octavia, the emperor’s sister.

Although they dream of home, they’re treated extremely well. They live in Roman luxury and attend classes with other privileged children. Selene worries, though, about what will happen when they reach the age of 14. At that point, Octavian can marry her off to whomever he pleases and Alexander, as a man, will become a real threat.

This is one of those rare historical novels that immediately pull the reader into the world of the past. Daily details give realistic texture to the narrative, allowing the reader to vicariously experience what life must have been like during that time. The story is told from Selene’s point of view, and her observations are honed by her background as Egyptian royalty. She understands how politics works. She’s seen both her parents die because of it. She’s clear-eyed and not a little cynical, but she still has dreams.

The author kindly includes a timeline and a glossary so that readers not familiar with the time can easily reference terms and incidents. While Selene is the star here, the author manages to paint a human portrait of the man who would become the Emperor Augustus, his scheming wife, and his kind-hearted sister who willingly took in the orphaned children of her former husband. I truly hope that the author plans to continue these stories. She does the reader the favor of outlining the later lives of many characters. That only made me wish she’d write the whole thing as another novel. Or three. Bringing history to life is a real gift, and readers are fortunate that Ms. Moran has chosen to share it with us.

Rating: 9
September 2009
ISBN# 978-0-307-40912-6 (hardcover)

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