When trying to come to a decision of which book to review, I stumbled across a conflict (a serious moral dilemma) tearing me between the amazing literature I have had the luxury of reading: “Jane Eyre”, “The Color Purple”, “Grendel”, and anything by Brandon Sanderson. However, all of said books hold merit and so called “hype” in the literary world. Thus, I reached the conclusion to utilize this book review as an opportunity to expand your mind with new possibilities of novels that are either less well known or intimidating at first glance.
Michelle Moran’s “Cleopatra’s Daughter” falls in the former category, though it is shocking to me that more people have not absorbed this work of historical truth and artistic storytelling. Ancient Alexandria, at the end of Cleopatra’s and Marc Anthony’s reign, is taken under siege by the Romans. From her initial words, Moran unfolds the little known life of the rulers’ sons and their daughter, Cleopatra Selene II. Following the infamous tragedy of Marc Antony and Cleopatra’s death, Selene and her siblings are thrust into the Roman Empire during the age of Augustus, not as guests but as a prisoners. In the mists of the Roman rebellion brought on by the Red Eagle, Selene is forced to maneuver through the political atmosphere and foreign culture of Rome, which she believes pales in comparison to the beauty of Alexandria.
While there are fictional components of the novel, such as the Red Eagle, Moran compiles ten years of research in order to accurately portray historical figures, utilizing slight cultural details that bring the story to life.
“Cleopatra’s Daughter” may not contain the same type of epic fight scenes ever present in fantasy, yet, with Moran’s beautiful, concise writing and flawless integration of details, the novel takes on a fast tempo that draws the reader into the lives of the characters.
It is this bond formed between Selene and the reader that makes the novel a breathtaking read. Her life is not explained. It is lived; the reader becomes part of it. Both her sufferings and loves are felt through the pages. And yet, it is the subtlety of the relationships, both the good and bad, that sets a realty to her life. It forms a connection between a girl of ancient times and us, people of the 21st century. As I read I became affected by Selene battling the societal expectations of young motherhood while being a girl no older than middle school age. She became a friend of mine, stripped of her crown and thrown into a barbaric world filled with slavery that she refuses to justify. Selene proves to be a courageous young woman who fights for a place in a society that wishes to dispose of her and her lineage. Her goal: to make herself valuable out of necessity to survive, to have freedom of her body and mind, and to one day return to her homeland of Alexandria.
—Maya Fraga, Grade 12.