Monday, January 20, 2014

Review: Cleopatra's Daughter

Cleopatra's Daughter is the story of what happened after the famous suicide of Cleopatra. Her remaining children, twins Alexander and Selene, are brought to Rome to live with the (future) imperial family. Their upbringing in Rome is pampered, and yet the children yearn to be returned to Egypt as the rightful King and Queen. Living with Octavian's sister Octavia, they are privy to all of the sights of the most wealthy children in Rome. They visit and make bets at the Circus, learn from a skilled Magister, and dine alongside the likes of Vergil. But they also see the darker side of Rome- in which slaves are killed for the smallest mistakes, babies are abandoned on a whim, and a rebel leader by the name of the Red Eagle threatens Octavian's already fragile reign. Alexander and Selene are two of the most well-educated children in their time, and Selene proves herself to be one of the most talented young architects in Rome, but will that prove to Octavian that she is more valuable alive than dead? While they bide their time in Octavian's home waiting for their futures to be decided upon, Octavian becomes Emperor Augustus, the slaves and plebians threaten a revolt, and the twins begin to question whether they will ever be set free from their gilded cage.

I was a Latin student for six years, and as such I translated many speeches and poems that were written during this time period. I had always had such a liking for Octavian Augustus, as he is considered one of the greatest rulers in history and was responsible for a Golden Age in Rome. This book, however, made me question my love for him. Moran portrays Octavian as a ruthless leader, with fragile health and an overwhelming sense of superstition. It is an interesting perspective to take, after so many years of unwavering admiration for Augustus, to suddenly find myself slightly put off by his nature. I loved the character of the Red Eagle, although he was not historically accurate (as Moran writes in the Historical Notes), he brought an element of mystery to the story, and I was genuinely surprised when his identity was revealed. I found myself most enchanted, however, by Selene. I had no idea that Selene was such a strong presence in her time, and I thought at multiple points throughout the book that her mother, whom I've always admired as a incredible female figure in history, would have been so proud of her vivacious character, unwavering sense of integrity, and exceptional intellect. Moran is quickly becoming a favorite author for me when it comes to considerable female characters throughout history. She has a great talent for portraying these time periods in such a way that it is remarkably easy to find yourself transported and completely immersed in the story. 

Bottom Line Rating: 5/5

Title: Cleopatra's Daughter
Author: Michelle Moran
Publisher: Crown, 2009
Price: $25.00
ISBN: 978-0-307-40912-6
Format: Hardcover
Source: Public Library
Book #2 of 2014

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