05 January 2011

LILY OF THE NILE by STEPHANIE DRAY

So - Historical fiction and historical figures are my forte. In fact, I am one of the mods of a group called History of Royals, so when Stephanie Drayapproached me with an offer to read a ARC of this book I jumped at the chance. Although I have not read a lot about the Ptolomies so far, I find them and Egypt fascinating. I have always been fascinated by their gods, rituals, etc. This particular book focuses on Cleopatra's daughter, Cleopatra Selene. It begins with Cleopatra's death, and follows Selene to Rome, where she was raised by Augustus Caesar's sister, Octavia. The story then follows her all the way until her betrothal and elevation to Queen of Mauritania in Africa. 

I was fascinated with this story from the first page, especially since I wasn't really aware that Cleopatra had a daughter, or what happened to her after the death of Marc Anthony and Cleopatra. I mean, I knew that she had children, but had never really spent much time finding out about them. It turns out that Cleopatra Selene played a pretty big role in Egyptian - Roman relations, just like her mother. I was fascinated by the way that the author made Selene come to life. In some ways she acted just like any girl in a similar situation, if there are any similar situations these days. The book never slowed for me. My only wish is that I had not tried to read it during the holidays, so that I could have sat down and devoured it from start to finish. Even my husband got into the story when I would read parts out loud to him. Although he did not finish the book, or at least not yet, he really enjoyed the part that he read, and he is not a historical fiction aficionado. 

Another thing that really impressed me with this book was the way that the author approached the writing of the book. At the front of a book she has written a "dear reader" letter, clearly stating that, although she did extensive research on the subject of the book, it is a work of fiction and that, as such, she felt able to move things around a bit to fit her story. She also has stated that the book is told from the point of view of Cleopatra Selene and therefore contains a bias toward the Egyptian point of view. I commend her for stating this up front. I, for one, do not mind biases and such things in a fictional story. It usually inspires me to search out more on the subject and characters, which this book certainly did. 

In addition, I saw some of my favorite historical fiction and history writers listed by the author as her inspiration, and as having an influence on her writing. This I took to be another good sign, and I was not disappointed. 

At the end of the book the author states that there is a sequel to this book in the works, which follows Selene through her life in Africa. All I can say it - I can't wait for the sequel to come out. I am really anticipating the end of the story of this wonderful person. 

I would rate this book at 4.5 or 4.75 stars. A solid A book.