Title: Cleopatra's Daughter
Author: Michelle Moran
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.
Update: Due to this stupid-ass new rule, I have to say: I received this book as a review copy from the author, Michelle Moran.
Before I begin this review, let me make this clear: I knew nothing about Cleopatra, Mark Antony or Ancient Egypt before picking up Cleopatra's Daughter. If Michelle Moran could teach me (someone who's had a D average in History since third grade) anything about anyone and still entertain me, then, dear god, the women is a miracle worker.
Told in the first person, Cleopatra's Daughter begins with Selene, the only daughter of Queen Cleopatra, and her siblings, playing games with their mother while waiting to hear news of their father, who's off at war only miles from their palace. They soon hear of Egypt's defeat at the hands of Romans, taken captive inside their own homes. As any history buffs would know, both Cleopatra and Mark Antony commit suicide rather then be paraded down their kingdom's streets. Selene's older brothers are also killed, leaving only her, her twin Alexander, and her young brother (I kind of read it as 'Unpronouncable P Name' so I'm not even going to attempt to spell it). They board a ship to Rome as captives. Unpronouncable P Name dies on the way (which, I'll admit, had me choked up). And then, Rome.
This could have very easily been a textbook, or just a straight-up information dump. But Michelle Moran does a fine job of taking facts and weaving them into a plot. Cleopatra's Daughter read like a regular novel and, though anyone with three years of World History schooling (or access to Wikipedia) could probably know how it would end, everything was so crisp and sharp it felt honestly like fiction. She takes these historical cast of characters, who we see as just words on a page, and turns them into living, breathing people.
The highlight of Moran's writing is, without a doubt, her descriptions. She paints a world few people (let alone young adults) could even fathom with a grace and ease of someone simply holding up a picture of Ancient Rome.
Moran also does an amazing job a capturing the cruelty of them crazy ancient folk. This is a world where a guy could flick his wrist and have an entire house of slaves crucified for one spilling his wine. Unwanted baby's left in piles in the cold, at the mercy of whatever kindness someone had to give. 12 year old girls being married off to fat old men just for being friends with the wrong person. Raping and stealing and killing a common sport, where executions were seen as sport and people were bought to fight in the Colleseum. All probably shit no body wants to notice. It's told through the eyes of a girl, only 12, in a way that is both mature and childish. Everything dampened by a kid's wide eyes and brightened by the same kid's optimism.
The only problems I really had with it was--and keep in mind this could just boil down to my intellegence level--that bits and parts were rather rushed and/or confused. Like, maybe Moran got too lost in the history aspect instead the character-driven aspect. Not to say this is a bad thing, but given the target audience who, I'm sure you'll agree, care more for a strong protagonist then random historical facts and reminders of the time period.
I probably wouldn't reccomend CD to anyone too young to see a PG-13 movie. There's a lot of bad things in this book, the negative side of history that we all prefer to ignore. Crusifixion, rape, all that. Definetly not one for the kids, but still a fantastic historical novel.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Also: Here's a book trailer:
Now for the GIVEAWAY!
Ms. Moran has gracially offered one hardcover, signed copy of Cleopatra's Daughter to one lucky winner PLUS an Egyptian pen! As with all giveaways on this here blog, here are the rules:
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You have til this Sunday (October 11th). Good luck!