Adult Historical Fiction (411 pgs.)
The marriage of Marc Anthony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time. Feared and hunted by the powers in Rome, the lovers choose to die by their own hands as the triumphant armies of Antony's rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt. When their orphaned children are taken in chains to Rome, only two--the ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander--survive the journey. 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 deep within their own hearts.
Emerging from the shadows of the past, Sele must confront the same forces that destroyed her mother and struggle to meet a different fate.
After reading this novel from cover to cover, I can honestly say that Michelle Moran should be regarded as a great, up-and-coming historical fiction novelist. She definitely should not be ignored.
Just a quick note... Even though this book is categorized as adult fiction, the oldest our protagonist Selene gets in the book is 14, although the children act very mature. But in the world Selene lives in, it is easy to see why she acts as mature as she does; why, at only age 14, she is already an adult.
Moran's novel presents a compelling insight into ancient Roman life, which--although archaic--is definitely not devoid of intrigue and fantastic stories. Her historical research is meticulous, and very evident throughout the novel. I applaud Moran for intricately weaving her story of Cleopatra's daughter into history; rather than creating a story and adding history to it, Moran took the written history and enhanced it, giving it meaning and life.
Selene, Cleopatra's daughter, is a memorable and extremely relateable character, and was very enjoyable to read. One of the traits Selene embodied most--which made her so believeable--was the unavoidable human longing for home. Throughout the novel, Selene longs to return to her homeland and take back what was rightfully hers, no matter if an entire Roman legion stands in her way.
Another part of Selene I really enjoyed was her unwavering caring for those she loves most. Her tie to her twin brother, Alexander, shows just how dearly she cares for her family, even her friends for that matter. She would risk anything for those she loves, and I admire her for that.
Michelle Moran really communicated to me just how precarious royal life in Rome was. Everyone lived (or, in some cases, died) on the whims of Ceasar. There were so many secrets, so many hidden stories. People put on a different face for Caesar then they did anyone else, especially those with much to risk. This fact alone lent a nice bit of drama to the story, and certainly kept characters on their toes.
Moran was able to create a powerful, driving plot that keeps you turning page after page. As intricately historical fiction books can sometimes be too heavy on the history, Moran manages to balance the history with the plot extremely well. This book was never, ever boring.
All in all, this was a really great read. This book truly surprised me, and in the best of ways. Michelle Moran cannot be ignored any longer... her knack for historical fiction is fantastic! Take the journey into the world of Ceasar's Rome... you won't regret it.
Book #2 in Historical Fiction Reading Challenge