Michelle Moran – Cleopatra’s Daughter
111. Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran (2009)
Cleopatra’s Daughter was published by Crown Books on 15 September 2009; you can order yourself a copy from Amazon.
Length: 431 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult/Adult Crossover
Started: 09 September 2009
Finished: 11 September 2009
Where did it come from? From the author for review.
Why do I have it? I’d heard lots of good things from fellow book bloggers about Moran’s novels, and while I already have Nefertiti on my TBR pile, Cleopatra’s Daughter fit into my reading life a lot better at the time (more below.)
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 02 September 2009
Won’t someone please think
of the children?!? Cleo had
kids… who would have guessed?
Summary: Everybody knows the story of Marc Antony and Cleopatra and the asp, but how many people have asked about what came next? Cleopatra left behind three children by Antony, the ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander, and their younger brother Ptolemy. Rather than kill them, Octavian brings them back to Rome, to demonstrate not only his conquest of Egypt, but also his magnanimity in letting them live. The children are the last of a great dynasty of Egyptian rulers, and for that reason are kept under close watch, for there is a danger that they will become a rallying point for the Red Eagle, a mysterious dissident who has been working to abolish slavery by whatever means necessary. Cleopatra’s Daughter is told in Selene’s voice, as she comes of age inside the most powerful family in Rome – never exactly a prisoner, but never entirely free from the swirling currents of loyalty, distrust, and power in Octavian’s Rome.
Review: This book came along at a very serendipitous time in my reading life. I’d read Jo Graham’s Hand of Isis about six months previously, so I was familiar with Cleopatra’s side of the story, and I’d finished watching the HBO series Rome about a week previously, so I was up-to-date with the main players and politics in Rome. Furthermore, Rome ends at more or less the exact point that Cleopatra’s Daughter begins, so I feel like I was prepared as I was ever going to be without having a degree in classical studies or ancient history.
This novel’s main strength comes from how well Moran brings the ancient world – and the people who inhabit it – to life. Rome itself is a vibrant, fully-realized city, and Moran gives us not only the tourist-brochure highlights, but also glimpses of the seamier undersides. Selene and her friends are too wealthy and well-connected to have to deal with much of the squalor of ancient Rome, but Moran does a nice job of balancing the gilt with the grit. The characters get much the same treatment – it’s easy to read historical accounts and forget that these were real people, with real passions and quirks and lives. Moran takes the histories and recreates real people of flesh and blood, people who were so vividly-drawn that they reminded me of people I already know.
The plot moved along nicely, keeping me thoroughly absorbed in the story despite the fact that I already knew the outcome (darn historical accuracy!) The writing at times felt somewhat simple for my tastes, but although it was noticeable, it wasn’t particularly distracting, and so I’m going to chalk it up to Moran wanting Cleopatra’s Daughter to be accessible to a young adult audience as well. I also wasn’t crazy about the romance angle of the story; it worked so well as a straight-up piece of historical fiction that the love story felt a little bit shoehorned in at the end. But, in the final analysis, Cleopatra’s Daughter was an interesting look at what happened in history after the point where most retellings of the time stop, and it kept me absorbed, kept me entertained, and kept me up reading past my bedtime for several nights in a row. 4 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Definitely recommended for fans of historical fiction both young and old, particularly those who like Ancient Rome but who consider Antony & Cleopatra to be the end of the story.
Links: Michelle Moran’s website
Other Reviews: At Home With Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Book Addiction, The Burton Review, Caribousmom, Creative Madness, Medieval Bookworm, Well-Mannered Frivolity
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.
First Line: While we waited for the news to arrive, we played dice.
Cover Thoughts: Argh, the half-headed girls! Also, the model seems a little old, given that Selene is in her very early teens for most of the book. Otherwise, though, I really like the way this cover integrates Roman and Egyptian elements and conveys a sense of wealth and power… even without the gold embossing, the saturation of the red makes it look very rich.
Vocab: (see the whole list)
- p. 35: “The vessel that was to bear us toward Rome was my mother’s thalamegos, a ship so large that its pillared courtyards had once hosted my father’s mock battles on horseback.” – a river going pomp boat of Ptolemy IV Philopator. The ship had a twin hull like a catamaran, one single mast with a yard and sail on the forecastle and is said to be towed from the banks of the Nile. Columns surrounded the stories like a temple.
- p. 58: “So while my father had been adorning himself with gold in Alexandria, drinking the best wines from my mother’s silver rhyta, Octavian had been working to improve his city.” – an ancient Greek drinking horn, made of pottery or metal, having a base in the form of the head of a woman or animal.
- p. 91: ““What else do they believe?” Alexander asked. “That Antony instructed that he be worshipped as Dionysus. That he crowned his head in ivy and carried a thyrsus instead of a sword.”” – a staff tipped with a pine cone and sometimes twined with ivy and vine branches, borne by Dionysus and his votaries.
- p. 95: “Gallia wanted to know about everything I unpacked. The henna for my hands, the moringa oil for my face, the pumice stone for removing extra hair around my brows.” – A genus of trees of Southern India and Northern Africa. One species is the horse-radish tree, and its seeds are known in commerce as ben nuts, and yield the oil called oil of ben.
- p. 106: “I recognized the symbol of Isis on his belt at once. To anyone else, the knot would have been unremarkable, but I knew it was a sacred tiet.” – the Knot of Isis, a symbol that resembles an ankh, except the crossing arms curve downward.
- p. 123: “We reached a wooden door inside the Forum, and Gallia led the four of us into a small chamber. “Is this it?” I asked nervously. Julia sighed. “The ludus.”” – elementary school where almost all children, including girls, attended. There the children learned the alphabet, mathematics & basic writing.
- p. 129: “I could already smell the strong scent of kyphi, just like in Alexandria.” – a compound incense that was used in ancient Egypt for religious and medical purposes.
- p. 224: ““You?” he demanded, looking at a second young man in the toga of a judex.” – a Roman civil servant who was appointed investigate the facts in cases brought before a magistrate.
- p. 299: “In those precious moments, a soldier leapt forward and speared the beast with his metal pilum.” – a javelin used in ancient Rome by legionaries, consisting of a three-foot-long shaft with an iron head of the same length.
- p. 307: “The Tabularium was a solemn place, with a façade of peperino and travertine blocks masking a stark interior of concrete vaults.” – a brown or grey volcanic tuff, containing fragments of basalt and limestone, with disseminated crystals of augite, mica, magnetite, leucite, and other similar minerals; a form of limestone deposited by springs, esp. hot springs, used in Italy for building.