Monday, February 1, 2010

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran - 448 pgs

Book CoverAfter the death of their parents Cleopatra and Marc Antony, their three surviving children, Selene, Alexander and Ptolemy are captured and taken to Rome by their parents' greatest rival, Octavian Caesar. Despite their parentage, the three are not executed but instead are paraded throughout Rome as a testimony to the triumph of Caesar, and later taken to be raised among his family. As they mature in Rome amongst their enemies, they must learn how to live and operate in a society far more brutal and dangerous than their homeland of Egypt, and must learn the importance of keeping vigilant and silent in the house of Caesar. Woven with delicious intricacy and wonderful detail, Cleopatra's Daughter not only tells the story of these remarkable children but also expounds on ancient Rome and the notorious and unforgettable people who lived there.

I had heard such great things about this book in the book blogging community and even saw that a few people mentioned it as their best read of 2009. I have to say,that after reading it, I agree that this is one hell of a book! I liked pretty much everything about it and thought that Moran did a spectacular job of creating a version of ancient Rome that really enthralled and excited.

First off, I thought that her characters were finely tuned and easy to empathize with. The book is told from the viewpoint of Selene, Queen Cleopatra's only daughter. I liked Selene's voice and found her courage and bravery to be really beguiling. I can't imagine I would ever be able to be as brave as she was under those circumstances. It seemed that no matter what situation she was placed in, she had a heart full of contrary intentions, which is probably one of the things that kept her alive! I thought that Alexander was a little to compliant with Caesar at times and was too easily led into disaster, but ultimately I believed in his voice and felt that he was another character written with distinction. The supporting cast of characters were both original and unique and I felt that they were not given short shrift in the narrative either, which made for a more all-encompassing and detailed reading experience that I relished.

I was surprised to find out just how brutal life in ancient Rome actually was. I am not the type of person who thrives on cruelty but I thought it was fascinating to read just how little an individual's life was valued during those times. Women seemed to be looked on as items to be traded for opportunity, and even if a woman was already married, her father or brothers could annul her marriage and place her with a more advantageous man in the blink of an eye. Gladiators were viciously murdered after a tournament, no matter if they won or lost, and the common people faced daily brutalities and injustices at the hands of Caesar and his men. I thought these facts were cleverly peppered into the fictional aspects of the story and really gave the book an authentic and feasible feel. I am torn as to how to explain how I felt at these bits. I think that although my mouth was hanging open and my eyes agog at what I was reading, I was intensely interested and caught up in these details and their execution.

I also felt that the plot was pretty wonderful as well. The story never felt stale or flat and there were many surprises in the story line. I think that the romantic elements of the plot were juggled pretty well amongst the intrigue and historical sections, with no one single aspect of the plot overtaking the other in any obvious way. The overall story flowed together very well and I thought that there was just the right amount of combustion in the plot lines to keep everything moving along at a great clip. I think my favorite aspect of the plot was the one having to do with the secret outlaw who was opposing Caesar's rule throughout Rome, and I was really surprised to discover how that eventually turned out!

I think that lovers of historical fiction would be greatly pleased by this book but I don't think that they are the only ones who would love it. I think it has appeal for those who enjoy character studies as well as those looking for something that will grab and hold your attention like a dog with a bone. I really enjoyed this read and am happy that my book club and I will be discussing it at our next meeting. I think that this is a perfect book for book clubs, and I am sure that the discussion engendered by this one will be fantastic! A great read, recommended!



This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

10 comments:

Aarti said...

Great review, Heather! I have also seen so many positive reviews of Moran's work on blogs, and yours may just tip me over the edge in terms of seeking her out. I also think Ancient Rome is a fascinating setting to write in. In so many ways, we seem to have more information about life in those days than life in, say, Medieval Europe. And we always seem the Romans and Greeks as being so high-brow but they were quite brutal and, in many extends, were the first empire to wipe out a lot of smaller cultures.

Suko said...

Outstanding review, Zibilee. I'd love to read this. I have another book by this author, The Heretic Queen, which I hope to read soon.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I know lovers of Historical Fiction do have a love affair with this author. This is not necessarily my genre, but I've been wanting to dabble in it, just to see what the fuss is about! I may start with one of hers.

bermudaonion said...

Everyone raves about Moran's work and I have 3 of her books here - it sounds like I need to get busy! Great review!

Meghan said...

Great review! I definitely think Moran's books would also appeal to non-historical fiction lovers. Like you say, her characters are rich and her story is so interesting. I hope your book club discussion is awesome!

Simcha said...

I haven't heard of this book before but it sounds really great, from your review. I'm definitely adding it to my list. Thanks for the great review!

Diane said...

Loved your review Heather (haven't read this one). I also enjoyed the "trailer". Thanks

Marie said...

Fantastic review. When you say it's good for historical fiction lovers, people who like character-driven books AND it keep you hooked, you're describing my ideal book! Wow!

Lenore said...

Must put this higher in my pile!!

Dar said...

GReat review. I really enjoyed this book of Michelle's. I'm always amazed at how life was back then, especially for women. I can't wait to read her next one already!

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