(Cover picture courtesy of Stephanie Dray’s website.)
Sorceress. Seductress. Schemer. Cleopatra’s daughter is the one woman with the power to destroy an empire…
Having survived her perilous childhood as a royal captive of Rome, Selene pledged her loyalty to Augustus and swore she would become his very own Cleopatra. Now the young queen faces an uncertain destiny in a foreign land.
The magic of Isis flowing through her veins is what makes her indispensable to the emperor. Against a backdrop of imperial politics and religious persecution, Cleopatra’s daughter beguiles her way to the very precipice of power. She has never forgotten her birthright, but will the price of her mother’s throne be more than she’s willing to pay?
Oftentimes the second book in a trilogy suffers from what I call Book 2 Syndrome. It means that the book is essentially a set up for the more exciting final book and ends on a huge cliffhanger to sucker readers into buying another book. This is definitely not the case with Stephanie Dray’s debut trilogy.
Cleopatra Selene is an even better character in this book not only because of her age but because of her life experience. Stephanie Dray manages to find a perfect balance between Selene’s ambitious side and her religious side, the side that is totally devoted to Isis. At the same time (for what will become obvious reasons) Selene has a hard time trusting and forgiving people. She’s not a perfect woman and never pretends to be but her inner strength is undeniable. Truly, Selene is spared nothing by Stephanie Dray and goes through so much suffering throughout the novel. Yet with the suffering there is also healing.
Much like Lily of the Nile, this book was a one-sitting read. I literally could not put it down, going so far as to read it while having supper, which is not something I’d normally do no matter how interesting a book is. The plot is fast-paced but there’s so much character development not only for Selene but for Chryssa, Juba, Octavian and Helios as well. It’s really a fascinating read from a lot of perspectives.
Song of the Nile is not a miraculous example of historical accuracy in fiction. Yet I loved how Stephanie Dray admitted this in her ‘Dear Reader’ note and gave actual justifications for any changes. There is also a huge gap in the record of Cleopatra Selene’s life so she did have a little more leeway with her characters than most historical fiction writers do. Despite these changes where possible the novel is historically accurate right down to the details of everyone’s clothing.
If you haven’t started the trilogy yet I can’t recommend it enough. It’s well-written so that you feel like you’re actually there with these historical figures. It’s fast-paced but doesn’t sacrifice character development in the process. And it’s historically accurate where possible. What more can you ask for in historical fiction?
I give this book 5/5 stars.