(Cover picture courtesy of Elmhurst.)
3 Januarius, Morning
I could feel my insides shaking. Would this sister try to poison me? Yes, I believe so. As for my other older sister, Berenice—never! She and I adore each other even though I am eight years younger.
I took the cup and raised it toward Tryphaena as if toasting her, but really I was watching the liquid, looking for oil floating on its surface, or powder sticking to the sides of the cup. If I suspected poison and tossed it into the pool, she would have her guards behead me on the spot. If it was indeed poison, one sip and I could die…
My eyes closed as I took the first sip, as if savoring such an excellent taste, but really my thought was, O Isis, I am afraid….My stomach turned with nervousness, or was it from a fearsome death beginning in me?
The Royal Diaries series is a great one for young girls to learn about the lives of famous women. And no woman is more famous than Cleopatra VII, who has become a cultural phenomenon. So who was she? What was she like as a child? Kristiana Gregory tries to answer that question by writing a diary from Cleopatra’s own point of view.
What I like about Cleopatra VII: Daughter of the Nile is that it doesn’t feel like you’re reading a diary. It feels like you’re seeing the events happen in real time as Cleopatra describes them, unlike some of the other books in the series. Kristiana Gregory obviously put a lot of research into her novel and it shines through in the little details about ancient Egyptian life. The narrative takes a different direction than a lot of books about Cleopatra’s younger years as it shows her going to Rome with her father, which may or may not be true—after all, it is ancient history. This is where she meets Marc Antony and helps her father, who speaks no Latin, navigate Roman politics.
Readers will fall in love with Cleopatra. She’s resourceful, strong and is, at the same time, a teenage girl at heart. She falls in love, she gets scared, she doubts herself…most readers will be able to relate to her.
The only caveat I have about this book is the religious aspect. Cleopatra admires Nefertiti and Akhenaten for their monotheism, even though no one by the Ptolemaic period would have had any clue who they were as the city they built (Akhetaten) was torn apart brick by brick and used in other Pharaohs’ monuments.
I give this book 4.5/5 stars.