As the daughter of the Queen of the Nile, Cleopatra, and Marc Antony, Selene should have led a charmed life with her twin brother Alexander and their younger brother Ptolemy – but if you know even a little ancient history, you probably know how the story ends for Selene’s parents.
Michelle Moran’s novel Cleopatra’s Daughter is a work of historical fiction that follows young Selene, Alexander and Ptolemy as they are taken by Octavian (later to be knows an Augustus) from Egypt to Rome. As if losing your parents, being taken hostage and removed from the only home that you have known and sailing to a foreign land isn’t hard enough, Selene and Alexander must also mourn Ptolemy, who becomes ill and dies on the voyage. Upon arriving in Rome, while they are warmly welcomed into the home of their father’s first wife Octavia (the sister of Octavian), they are paraded through the streets in Octavian’s victory parade as spoils of war.
Eventually Selene and Alexander settle in to their new life, but remain cautious – not knowing what Octavian will do to them once they become older. But from 30 B.C. to 25 B.C. the twins experience Roman life, attending school, games and the theatre. Selene, a gifted artist also begins working with the architect Vitruvius, learning from him and even getting to see some of her ideas realized.
While the story focuses on Selene, and to some extent Alexander, there are so many well developed characters that come in to Selene’s life (in fact Moran includes a list of the characters and a line about who they are, which does help keep the names straight). There is Selene’s friend (and sometimes frenemy) Julia, Octavian’s daughter from his first wife; the fun-loving Marcellus, son of Octavia and her first husband; Juba who works for Octavian and seems to always be around; and so many others.
While I could give the book report version of this story, I don’t want to reveal too much (even if you know your ancient history) so you too can enjoy this story. From the beginning I was fascinated by these characters and this look at ancient Egypt and Rome. And much like other compelling works of historical fiction, I now want to know more about this time and these people.
I won this book in a blog contest.