When was the last time I did one of these? I don't think I even read an adult book in 2015! Let's see how out of practice I am!
Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
Published: 2009 by Crown Books which is a division of Random House.
Genre: Adult historical fiction.
Page Count: 411 plus an afterword, glossary, and acknowledgements that take about 20 pages.
Part of a series? No.
Got via: It was sent to me for review consideration in like 2009. I am terrible, and I apologize.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound
Summary (from goodreads): Selene's legendary parents are gone. Her country taken, she has been brought to the city of Rome in chains, with only her twin brother, Alexander, to remind her of home and all she once had.
Living under the watchful eyes of the ruling family, Selene and her brother must quickly learn how to be Roman – and how to be useful to Caesar. She puts her artistry to work, in the hope of staying alive and being allowed to return to Egypt. Before long, however, she is distracted by the young and handsome heir to the empire...
When the elusive ‘Red Eagle' starts calling for the end of slavery, Selene and Alexander are in grave danger. Will this mysterious figure bring their liberation, or their demise?
Review: Honestly, I was a little afraid of this one. Not because I thought it would be bad or anything, but because sometimes I'm a little intimidated by historical fiction, and sometimes a little intimidated by adult books. It probably comes from being a young advanced reader as a kid, where I was convinced I needed to read certain books to "better" myself, and just not finding them that interesting. Now, on a less personal-time-with-Laina note, this is not like that. This is told in first person, which I think helps me a lot with connecting with a book when it's something outside my usual reading areas, and the majority of the book, honestly, is dialogue. Because it does have so much dialogue, it avoids having a slow pace by way of too much description, while still being vibrant, and making you really able to picture the setting.
Both the press stuff I was sent and some of the goodreads shelf say this is meant to be both YA and Adult fiction, and I don't think that is remotely true. While it has crossover appeal for sure, for most of the book, Selene is eleven and twelve. The book ends with her a little under sixteen, but the majority of it takes place while she's under thirteen. This is definitely not MG, and I think in the end, this is an adult novel with a very young protagonist, which is very different. I think mature teens could enjoy this, for sure, and it's a very approachable book, but it's not YA. The voice isn't YA, the age is wrong, and as much as YA deals with very mature and complex subject matter, it's handled differently.
Go into this expecting YA, you're probably going to be disappointed. Go into this expecting an adult book with a young protagonist, and possible crossover appeal for an older/mature teen audience, and you'll be golden, Ponyboy.
Plot Talk: Okay, asking me to describe a historical plot is unfair. I'm not great at either of those things! So, ah, basically Selene is Cleopatra's daughter with Marc Antony, and this is about what happens after she and her brother are taken prisoner by Octavian after their deaths. That is the best you're getting from me. Good plot, loved the Red Eagle subplot that was very exciting, but I am bad at describing plot and I just put lotion on the giant eczema flare on my arm and now it's all itchy.
Characters: This is a fascinating case where I both really enjoyed the characters and thought they were very unrealistic. Like, they are eleven and twelve for most of the book, but basically every child character acts like they're teenagers. And I understand they were very educated children who had a lot of pressure on them due to their parentage, but.. they're also twelve. There are just some things I don't think are realistic in their voices.
Okay, this is going to make me sound like I'm the one who's twelve, but let's compare the complete opposite end of the spectrum. You know the Royal Diaries series? Or any other series where they take historical girls and write "diaries" about them? There's actually a Cleopatra one, ha ha. I believe those characters are twelve much more than I believed Selene and her friends were twelve. Obviously this is going to be much more historically accurate, but there are times where character-wise, I can't get into a state where it doesn't take me out of the book.
Otherwise, I'm good. Selene has a very solid voice for the most part, and she's a very fascinating person. It's a lot of pressure just to have Cleopatra as a mother. Then to lose her parents at such a young age, having to deal with everything she has to deal with, and having to survive being taken prisoner by the man who essentially murdered her parents and conquered her home. How she lives in the Roman life while still being herself, but also essentially becoming a member of his family is an amazing story.
PG-13 stuff: This does have some heavy content. There's a good amount of violence, suicide, murders, torture, rape. Which is actually one of the things that make me not so happy - I'm sorry, but I just don't think an eleven year old is going to brush off an attempted rape like that. She only thinks about it like twice. I think it's unrealistic with her age, and honestly trivializes rape to some extant.
I also think that this isn't really a romance, despite the goodreads shelves declaring it so. I mean, dude, she's pretty much twelve for most of this book. She has a long-enduring crush, but that's not really the same thing, and the actual romance of the book doesn't really happen until the last chapter or two of the book, when she's fifteen/sixteen. I'm okay with that because, again, twelve, but it does lead to some InstaLove since the guy is like ten years older than her, in his twenties when she hasn't even hit puberty, and that would really weird.
Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: What I mentioned was pretty much it. The voice, while lovely, could be a bit too old for the character at time, the attempted rape was not given enough weight, and that's about it. Not a fan of either of those.
Cover comments: I think this is a beautiful cover. It looks amazing. The colours are so gorgeous, the details are wonderful, and I think it suits the book perfectly. There's also a paperback cover with a blue and gold scheme that is just as pretty.
Conclusion: I'm glad I finally read this! I'll also probably be giving it to my mom to read because she thought it sounded interesting, too, when I described it. This was different from anything I've read in a really long time, and I really enjoyed it. I also loved the additional notes about the real people and history included so you could kind of see what happened to the characters, or at least their real counterparts.
It does lose a few points with me for the things I mentioned above, and I definitely don't think it's YA at all, but it is very good for what it actually is. This one gets four out of five roses from me, and I'm looking forward to reading the other book I have by this author!
- They sent me an actual Roman coin after I'd had this for a while. How cool is THAT for book swag?
- My pie chart is going to have more pieces this year!
Peace and cookies,