I first fell hard for Michelle Moran’s historical fiction books when I picked up Nefertiti a couple of years ago. Her writing transported me to Ancient Egypt, and I found myself instantly connecting with her 3000 year old characters. Moran’s next book, the Heretic Queen had the same effect. So it was with excitement, high hopes and some trepidation that I grabbed her latest book: Cleopatra’s Daughter, Princess of Egypt, Prisoner of Rome.
My fears were unfounded. In this latest book she does not disappoint.
Michelle Moran has a true storytelling gift. She has the ability to develop her characters so they feel very real to the reader (of course many are real as she bases them on historical characters). Moran brings the characters to life – their everyday lives, their emotions, their thoughts and agendas, their passion, drama and intrigues, in the main using true historical events and places. The sign of a great historical fiction book.
Set during the rule of the Roman Octavian (later will be known as Augustus), at the beginning of the Roman Empire, the main character Kleopatra Selene, daughter of the famous Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt and the Roman, Marc Antony, finds herself bereft of home, parents and her older siblings. She is forced to leave Egypt for Rome with her brothers Alexander and Ptolemy, as Octavian’s prisoners of war.
She soon learns that life in Rome is both vicious and indulgent, a life where politics and intrigue rule and one must be careful what they say , and indulge the seemingly insecure and iron fisted Octavian, leader of Rome. She fears for her and her brother’s life, for anyone that threatens Octavian’s position with a claim to Roman rule, no matter how tenuous, is quickly and quietly disposed of, never to be seen again.
She sets about making herself useful to Octavian through her radical apprenticeship with the great Roman architect, Vitruvius, (Roman women were not workers, but tools for political alliances through marriage) in order to stay alive, but Selene despairs of ever seeing her beloved Egypt again until the arrival of the enigmatic Red Eagle, instigator of a slave rebellion and her chance at freedom.
This book has everything you could wish for, drama, sorrow, romance, joy, social commentary, and the draw of true events, albeit thousands of years ago. If you are like me and cannot resist books that bring the wonderful past to life through strong characters, and vivid portrayals of scenes and politics, then you will love this book. I still find myself thinking about it even a week after I had finished the book and about to finish the next.