Friday 2 September 2011

Lily Of The Nile by Stephanie Dray

Lily Of The Nile is part one in a series of books about the life of Cleopatra's daughter Selene.  Born and raised in Alexandria as the daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony, she lives a privileged life in a place where women are free to be as intelligent as men.  After Cleopatra is defeated by Octavian, Selene is sent to Rome with her brothers and must learn to comply with the strict rules of Roman life, whilst coming to term with the loss of her parents, her throne and her country.

I love historical fiction but was slightly apprehensive about reading this book as I have read Michelle Moran's Cleopatra's Daughter, and liked her portrayal of Selene.  But I shouldn't have worried - Dray's Selene is a strong character, heartsick over what has happened to her but determined to do all she can to make the best of her new situation.  I liked all of the politics in this book and how Selene was able to use her intellect to manoeuvre something beneficial to her out of the emperor.

I also enjoyed the character of Selene's twin brother Helios, and liked how Dray used the two of them to show the reader two contrasting reactions to being defeated by the emperor - Selene chooses compliance in the hope of getting what she wants later on, but Helios chooses to fight.  I would say that characterisation for me was the strength of this novel; Dray bought the historical figures to life and made each distinct.  I particularly enjoyed Julia, the headstrong daughter of the emperor, and Octavia, the former wife of Mark Anthony who becomes devoted to helping his children.

The one thing that stopped me from really loving this book was the fantasy element of it.  I enjoyed reading about the cult of Isis, especially the worship Selene witnesses in the temple, but I wasn't sold on the whole magic thing.  I can believe that Selene believed that Isis could carve hieroglyphics on her arms, but not that it could actually happen.

Verdict: An enjoyable read more on the fiction side of historical fiction with a strong leading character.
Source: From the author in exchange for an honest review.
Score: 3.5 out of 5

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  1. I'm really tempted by this book - I love anything Roman and Egyptian and the idea of following Cleopatra's children is fascinating! It's an area which is glossed over a lot in the fictional stories of Cleopatra so I like that a few authors have explored their story! :)

  2. ooh this sounds great! I've read about Cleopatra, but not Selene, just added it to my list :-)

  3. Mel, her children certainly had interesting iives. The Michelle Moran book is a good read as well.

    Mummazappa - Add the Michelle Moran book too whilst you are at it!

  4. I have not read Moran's Cleopatra's Daughter, but this subject interests me. I'll have to give this one a second look -- thanks for the helpful review :)

  5. What a great premise for a novel- I have to confess I did not know about Selene before your review, but can imagine there would be quite a story to tell here!

  6. TheBookGirl- hope you enjoy it if you do read it.

    Bookspersonally, there is quite a story to tell, Selene had a very interesting life.