Pages: 288 (hardcover)
Published: June 2011 by Simon & Schuster
It is the first century B.C. Cleopatra, the third of the pharaoh's six children, is the one that her father has chosen to be the next queen of Egypt. But when King Ptolemy is forced into exile, Cleopatra is left alone to fend for herself in a palace rife with intrigue and murder. Smart, courageous, ambitious and sensuously beautiful, she possesses the charm to cause two of history's most famous leaders to fall in love with her. But as her cruel sisters plot to steal the throne, Cleopatra realizes there is only one person on whom she can rely--herself.
Cleopatra VII, Egypt's most famous Queen. The name inspires such powerful imagery: a sensual and imperial woman riding in a golden boat along the Nile, regarding her prostrated subjects with a shrewd eye from beneath the crown of her two kingdoms. I've read quite a few fascinating and engrossing books about Cleopatra's life and legacy. To be fair, I also did an extensive thesis project on her a few years ago-- I know her story very well, whereas author Carolyn Meyer seems to have assumed in writing this that her audience knows nothing about Cleopatra at all. The brief version of this review is that the book failed to captivate, though it was historically accurate and told from the first person POV of Cleopatra herself.
The story begins when Cleopatra is about ten, shortly before her father, King Ptolemy "Auletes" leaves Egypt to be exiled for many years. There are descriptions of palace life and the royal family's voyages on a royal boat whilst the country is deep in famine and in even deeper debt. We grow to hate Cleopatra's older sisters-- cardboard-flat characters, but they serve their purpose. The narrative is told in brief chapters divided by years, as Cleopatra schemes to outwit her conniving sisters and become Queen-- co-regent beside her younger brothers. The story ends very abruptly soon after Cleopatra has herself delivered to Julius Caesar in the carpet... the final chapter jumps forward in time to describe her suicide and Antony's death, but none of it is very moving, considering we hardly get to meet Antony in the book at all. It skims conveniently over her affairs with Antony and Caesar and the births of her children, as well as the Battle of Actium, and winds up being a very short read. Overall, this book reads much like a textbook-- a well-written, colorful, accurate textbook-- but a textbook none the less. There are so many fantastic books, both YA and adult, which have been written about Cleopatra, and several more coming out this year. I would definitely hold out for another book.
Plot: 2/5Overall Rating: 3/5