Detailing the life of Selene from the age of ten to sixteen, the novel begins with the young protagonist worshipping her playful father, Mark Antony, and her powerful mother, Cleopatra. Teen readers will undoubtedly be familiar with their famous doomed romance, so will be gratified by this fictionalized insider’s view on their life and downfall. It is once her parents have died that the story becomes Selene’s and takes off. After being moved into the home of her enemy in Rome, Selene must try to keep her brothers alive and maneuver to reclaim the throne of Egypt. Politics aside, there is an engrossing love triangle and suspense that moves the novel along.
I am predisposed to like this book: I’ve loved other books written about the Ptolemys, have visited Egypt’s pyramids and museums, and spent many of my childhood history classes ignoring the teacher and copying my name in hieroglyphics from a poster. Shecter beautifully integrates historical facts into the novel, so the reader walks away with a detailed understanding of the food, customs, and culture of this era. As an adult reader, I found this to be a strength of the novel, although the target audience may feel the story drags when yet another religious ceremony is being described. While I respect the desire to include as many events in Selene’s life as possible, the novel would have broader appeal if it had been edited another 100 pages.
In the final third of the novel, Shechter ramps up the suspense, to the point that I was reading pages of the novel at red lights while driving. I will happily be recommending this to teens and other Egyptophiles, encouraging them not to give up before they reach the exciting conclusion.
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