I love Roman and Egyptian historical fiction, so I was excited to find this book. Stephanie Dray goes in a completely new direction as she tells the familiar story of what happened to Cleopatra and Marc Antony’s children after the suicide of their parents. This adventure begins with the suicide of Cleopatra and her last moments with her three children by Antony: Selene, Helios and Philadelphus. In this tale, Dray creates a world where the three children have magical powers when combined based on their Isaic heritage and religion. Personally, I thought it was a bit of a fun addition even though it is far-fetched. Augustus sister, Octavia, takes the three children into her home in Rome. This is the first of at least 2 books (in a series called Cleopatra’s Daughter) where this story focuses on Selene’s early adolescence in Rome under the tutelage of Augustus (Octavian) Caesar. She is the rational one while her twin, Helios, is as his name suggests, fiery and hot-tempered. There is very little evidence of Philadelphus surviving to even arrive in Rome after his parents’ suicide, so his character is fluff at best.
The main dynamic focuses between Selene and her relationship with Augustus. Historically speaking, Selene is the only Ptolemy child to survive to adulthood, so could this have happened since she was the only female heir of Cleopatra or because she was cunning and wise like her mother? There is a bit of a Feminist ideal to this book as Dray explores facets of the Isaic religion. Dray obviously took some artistic liberties from the HBO series ROME and I, Claudius with the sexual tension between Octavia and Agrippa (which has no historical evidence).
Overall, I enjoyed this book and will definitely read the follow-up. This book ends before Selene’s marriage to Juba, so it better get juicier! I read a similar title last year by Michelle Moran entitled “Cleopatra’s Daughter.” Personally, I enjoyed this book a bit more.
Jen’s Rating: ****