Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cleopatra's Daughter and Lily of the Nile

I'm reviewing these books together because, in essence, they tell the exact same story. I didn't exactly realize that when I got them both from the library, or I think I wouldn't have read them back-to-back. All the same, it was kind of interesting to read two different historical fiction accounts about the same person: Cleopatra's daughter Selene.

Here's a summary of Lily of the Nile:

"Heiress of one empire and prisoner of another, it is up to the daughter of Cleopatra to save her brothers and reclaim what is rightfully hers...

To Isis worshippers, Princess Selene and her twin brother Helios embody the divine celestial pair who will bring about a Golden Age. But when Selene's parents are vanquished by Rome, her auspicious birth becomes a curse. Trapped in an empire that reviles her heritage and suspects her faith, the young messianic princess struggles for survival in a Roman court of intrigue. She can't hide the hieroglyphics that carve themselves into her hands, nor can she stop the emperor from using her powers for his own ends. But faced with a new and ruthless Caesar who is obsessed with having a Cleopatra of his very own, Selene is determined to resurrect her mother's dreams. Can she succeed where her mother failed? And what will it cost her in a political game where the only rule is win-or die?"

And for Cleopatra's Daughter:

"The death of Cleopatra was only the beginning...

Follows the incredible life of Cleopatra's surviving children with Marc Antony -- twins, named Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene, and a younger son named Ptolemy. All three were taken to Rome and paraded through the streets, then sent off to be raised by Octavia (the wife whom Marc Antony left for Cleopatra). Raised in one of the most fascinating courts of all time, Cleopatra's children would have met Ovid, Seneca, Vitruvius (who inspired the Vitruvian man), Agrippa (who built the Pantheon), Herod, his sister Salome, and the poets Virgil, Horace, and Maecenas."

I thought both books were very interesting historically. I loved reading about ancient Rome (horrifying though it may be). Selene starts both stories at age 10 and we see her grow from that point into a young adult, so there's some great character development. One of my biggest complaints about both of these books is that they seemed to have a modern agenda when it came to homosexuality. Yes, there were people who lived that way in ancient Rome, but (and I did a bit of outside research after reading these books) there's no evidence that any of the main characters were. Both books make main characters homosexual (which characters constantly complain about prejudices against and rights for homosexuals) and that pretty much ruined the reading experience for me. Lily of the Nile detours away from history by adding a fair dose of magic to the story, which I was never convinced by. It just didn't seem to fit or work for me. I liked it quite a bit less as a story. Cleopatra's Daughter flowed better as a novel and was more strictly historical. It was my favorite story of the two, but that problem that I mentioned earlier.... yeah. It was much worse in Cleopatra's Daughter. Without that element I'm sure I would have liked these books much better. Even so, I felt like I learned a ton from them and I enjoyed the history. It's just too bad.

1 comment:

kelliemcc said...

I got your blog from Rebecca Lindsay, and I must tell you I love it! Thanks for all the fantastic book recommendations! I have Cleopatra's Daughter on my to-read list and I just wanted to recommend Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff. It's a very interesting historical account of her entire life. I really learned a lot from it. Thanks again!