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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cleopatra's Daughter

Cleopatra's Daughter
by Michelle Moran
448 pages

*** About the Book ***

After Octavian defeated the forces of Marc Antony at Alexandria, and after Marc Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide, Octavian took their 11-year-old twins Selene and Alexander with him back to Rome. He sent them to his sister's household, where she raised them beside her own children, while Octavian used them to bolster his own position with the Senate and the people. The twins grow up amid the intrigue of the ruling family of Rome, torn between their hatred of Octavian for his defeat of their parents and their hope that he will allow them to return to Egypt. They experience young adulthood as Romans, going to school, participating in festivals, watching as their friends are married off. And all this is set to the background of the mystery of the Red Eagle, a man who is anonymously pushing for the end of slavery in the Roman Empire and threatening Octavian's authority.

*** Why I Read It***

I've been hearing great things about Michelle Moran's books for quite a while so I was thrilled when she offered me a copy of this book to review. This is the first of her books I've had the chance to read.

*** My Thoughts ***

If this is any indication of the quality of Michelle Moran's other books, then I am in for a treat when I pick them up. This book was well written, interesting, packed with historical detail, the characters had depth, and I really enjoyed the time I spent reading it.

I loved getting to know Selene and Alexander, and seeing things through Selene's eyes. Her memories of her parents and her home in Alexandria contrasted with her first impressions of Rome and its decidedly foreign customs in ways that were enjoyable to read. I also appreciated Selene's strength, and how the way that she was raised by Cleopatra to be intelligent and independent was in such direct opposition to the way girls in Rome were raised.

It was fun for me to read about Selene and the other children learning Homer in school. I loved my own encounters with THE ILIAD and THE ODYSSEY; what an experience it must have been to study them when they weren't yet ancient history! And to have dinner with Virgil, and hear Ovid perform in the theater - this truly was a time of great literary minds. The talent and culture Selene and her companions were exposed to was truly amazing.

I did feel that the Red Eagle subplot was a bit contrived but I haven't heard anyone else mention it and it didn't really detract from my enjoyment of the book in any significant way, so I can't really complain.

*** The Real History ***

I love it when authors include detailed historical notes that clarify what is and is not true in their historical fiction novel, and Moran's author's note is one of the best I've read.

The core of her story is based on actual, documented facts. Very few of the characters were created specifically for the story, and very few changes were made to actual historical figures to enhance the story. Selene & Alexander were, in fact, taken in by Octavian's sister, who seems to have cared for them a great deal. The Red Eagle did not exist but was based on historical events and real-life rebel leaders. I won't say more than that, as you can find the details of the true history in the author's note, and I don't want to give away any of the plot.

A Christmas Connection: It may interest you to note that Octavian, later known as Caesar Augustus, is the same guy who is mentioned in the Bible as the one who called for the census that led Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem where the baby Jesus was born. You can find the mention of Caesar in Luke 2:1.

*** Your Thoughts ***

Have you read any of Michelle Moran's other books? My Secret Santa gave me THE HERETIC QUEEN and I'm looking forward to reading that one. Are there other books about Cleopatra that you'd recommend? I have Colin Falconer's WHEN WE WERE GODS on my shelf waiting to be read right now ...

Here are some other reviews of this book that you might want to check out:
And just for fun, check out the book trailer below. I'm a fan of book trailers in general, and I thought this one was well done - what do you think?


A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

I won a copy of this book a few months ago, but haven't read it yet. It sounds excellent! Thanks for the review and the historical connection in your post.

KyleeJ said...

This was my first Michelle Moran book as well. I loved it. I'm looking forward to picking up the others some time next year from the library.

Anonymous said...

Based on what you said about Cleopatra's Daughter, I'm thinking you need to read Moran's other books, as they are just as good (if not better!). I would recommend reading the first two in order, though, as The Heretic Queen takes place chronologically after Nefertiti.

Britt said...

I loved this book! I read it a couple months ago and already kind of want to read it again.

I'm looking forward to reading some of her others!

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

A Bookshelf Monstrosity - Glad you liked the historical notes; those are the things I find most interesting when I read books like this. :)

Kylee J & Britt - Me too!

Heather - I'm all about chronological order, so I will definitely get NEFERTITI first - thanks!

bermudaonion said...

I keep reading great things about this book - I need to make the time to read it. Great review.

Kailana said...

I love Michelle's books! I actually bought all three of them for my grandmother for Christmas. :) I had originally just planned on two, but since I was shipping them directly to her I added another one for free shipping. I hope you enjoy her other books and I am looking forward to her next one!

Robin M said...

Michelle's books are on my list to get for the 2010 historical challenge. Glad you liked it.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

bermudaonion - That's what I kept telling myself too. :)

Kailana - Ooh, that must have been a wonderful gift - hope your grandmother enjoys them!

Robin - Great! I know you'll like them.

Violet said...

I'm so glad you liked it, I read a little b4 the wedding but had to leave it unfinished. Hopefully I'll able to read it soon.

I loved her first 2 books. I would really recommend you to read Nefertiti before The Heretic Queen, just a suggestion :)

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Violet - I hope you get a chance to get back to it! And I will definitely read them in order. :)

Literary Feline said...

I had hoped to have this read by now, but it hasn't worked out. Hopefully this next year. I loved the author's Nefertiti. Thanks for the great review, Heather.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Literary Feline - I hope you do get a chance to read it soon!

Anna said...

I absolutely love Michelle Moran. Make sure you read "Nefertiti" before "The Heretic Queen." They sort of go together. I wouldn't say it's necessary, but it would make for a richer experience.

Diary of an Eccentric

Alyce said...

I really liked Cleopatra's Daughter, but I thought her Egyptian books were even better. I don't know if that's just because I have more interest in ancient Egypt than in Rome, but they were very fun to read.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Anna - Will do!

Alyce - Good to know! I'm looking forward to reading them.

Becca said...

Michelle Moran sent me this along in the package when I won The Heretic's Queen in a contest. I can't wait to read both of them, but I have been trying to hold off until the new year so they can also count in challenges! hahaha

Fiona said...

Hi I've just found your blog via the OWOH event which is happening and through another blog - you know the way you do - as an avid reader I was thrilled to find you - I've read this book and really loved it - her other book Nefertiti was good but not quite as good as Cleopatra - I enjoy reading about women in history who although so famous we know so little about

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