By Michelle Moran
After the deaths of Marc Antony and Cleopatra, Egypt’s new conqueror, Octavian, takes their three children, twins Alexander and Selene, and the youngest Ptolemy, to Rome as prisoners. Ptolemy dies on the journey causing Alexander and Selene to cling to each other even more knowing Octavian can order their deaths on a whim. After being paraded through the streets of Rome in chains, Alexander and Selene are sent to live with Octavia, Octavian’s sister who loves them as her own. While their life is by no means difficult — Octavia goes out of her way to make them feel at home — they still live in fear of death and desperately long for Egypt.
Told through Selene’s eyes, the story focuses on her brother and their small group of friends. While Alexander spends his time and money with Octavia’s son Marcellus at the Circus Maximus, Selene spends her time studying and attempting to make herself useful to Octavian hoping he will send her and her brother home. When their 15th birthday arrives and they are declared adults, Selene and Alexander’s lives take on a heightened urgency. Knowing a marriage will soon be in her future, Selene prepares for a difficult life, and Alexander attempts to live out his days happily instead of worrying about the future knowing he may not have one as the last living son of Marc Antony.
I enjoyed this book and the incredible detail Moran adds to the story. Selene is strong, stubborn, and unwilling to forget who and what she is — a princess of Egypt and daughter of Cleopatra. She questions Octavian’s orders, is outspoken to her guards, and always makes it known that she wants to return to Egypt. The years they spend in Rome are eventful and eye opening, even the smallest trip to the forum is interesting creating an incredible picture of Roman life.
I wanted to read this book because I loved The Heretic Queen so much. I don’t think I liked this book as much but it was still a great read. Moran has a way of describing events and details so well that you can picture everything clearly. She drops you right into the story. Selene is a captive princess in a foreign land and you feel her loss, fear, hope, and eagerness to learn and be useful. There were two small things that bothered me though. I did wonder about Selene’s maturity level at the beginning (she is 10 when Octavian invades Egypt) as she seems way too precocious for her age, and I didn’t like her eager acceptance of her chosen husband at the end. These two things didn’t deter from my reading, just made me wonder, but in the end had no impact on my liking the story any less.
Moran is fast becoming one of my new favorite authors. Now, I’m off to buy a copy of Nefertiti since my library doesn’t have it.