Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Review: Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran

Here is a summary of Cleopatra's Daughter from Michelle Moran's website:

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 vengeful rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt.  Their three orphaned children are taken in chains to Rome, but 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
Juba: Octavian’s ever-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 time. 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 tumultuous period in human history. Emerging from the shadows of history, Selene, a young woman of irresistible charm and preternatural intelligence, will capture your heart.  

My Review:
This was a wonderful story that started with the reign of Cleopatra and Marc Antony in Egypt and brought us to Rome under Octavian's rule.  There was so much history within the pages of this book that I think it took me a little longer to read this one, as I wanted to let the information sink in rather than read through it so quickly that nothing stayed with me.

When the story begins, Cleopatra's kingdom in Alexandria, Egypt, is just being taken over by Octavian.  We don't get to know Cleopatra too much as she quickly meets her demise early in the novel.  After Octavian takes control of the Egyption kingdom, he decides to take Cleopatra and Marc Antony's children to Rome and raise them in a way that will benefit his future plans.  Alexander and Selene are twins that were born to Cleopatra and this story is told from Selene's point of view.

When the children are ripped from the only life they've ever known, they consider themselves prisoners that will never be able to make their own decisions again.  Octavian seems to be a ruthless ruler so they dread what may be awaiting them in Rome.  When they do arrive they are quite surprised to find that Octavian's sister Octavia, plans on having them live with her.  Lucky for them they find that Octavia is a very compassionate woman and treats them as well as if they were her own children.  This does seem to spark a tinge of guilt between the twins because they know that their father, Marc Antony, was married to Octavia many years before but had left her to be with their mother Cleopatra.  They can visually see the love that Octavia still felt for Marc Antony and can only respect her compassionate attitude that much more.

After the children are captured they are informed that they will be told who to marry when they turn fifteen years old.  So not knowing what they should appreciate in life, they live their lives day to day.  They find themselves with good, solid friendships and attend school on a regular basis.  Selene is able to indulge in her love of art by becoming a student of a very well known architect and eventually is able to help with some major building projects and leave her mark on Rome.

During their time in Rome a rebel who calls himself the Red Eagle is against almost everything that Octavian is trying to accomplish.  Whenever a judgment is passed down that would hurt the citizens of Rome, the Red Eagle would react in a way that was visible to all.  Octavian knew the Red Eagle was hurting his political stance, so he would do anything to try to catch this rebel.  Many events take place during the novel that make Selene think that the Red Eagle may be living right under their very own roof.

I really don't want to give too much of this novel away as it does have a touch of a mysterious element to it.  I loved learning what daily life was like for the children of Rome and the feeling of the romance that gripped Selene's heart.  I would love to read more about Selene's life after she married and started a new life.  I am also very thankful to all of the helpful items that Michelle Moran included in this book.  She included a glossary, a time line, a couple of maps of Rome, and a list of the characters that also described how everyone was related.  These were very helpful tools and the book probably took me a little longer to read because I stopped and used these tools often.  Historical fiction readers are going to love this book so if you are ready to indulge yourself into the Roman Empire I definitely recommend this novel.

My Rating: 5/5

Disclosure:  Thanks to Michelle Moran for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Blodeuedd said...

I so loved this book. She has a way of ringing history to life, I could breathe the same air

bermudaonion said...

I don't think I've ever read anything negative about Moran's work and I'm kind of embarrassed to say I have all of her books and haven't read them yet. I really hope to get to this one soon.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

I loved this book! Flew through the pages and cant wait to read her again!

Darlene said...

Nice review. I loved this book as well. I don't think Michelle could write anything that was less than great!

Veens said...

Well I loved it to Jo-Jo. It definitely was a great read.. and You have a great review!

Lisa (Southern Girl Reads) said...

Terrific review! Though I don't read many books from this era, this sounds like one I would enjoy! Great job!

Alyce said...

I really enjoyed this one too. I haven't read very much fiction about Rome, and this book was a nice one to start with.

Lisa said...

I've never read any Moran before but this one sounds really interesting and like it would be a good one to start with.

Anna said...

This was the best book I read this year. Great review, as always!

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