Book Reviews

[review] Cleopatra’s Moon – Vicky Alvear Shecter


Release Date: August 1, 2011
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

Selene has grown up in a palace on the Nile with her parents, Cleopatra & Mark Antony—the most brilliant, powerful rulers on earth. But the jealous Roman Emperor Octavianus wants Egypt for himself, & when war finally comes, Selene faces the loss of all she’s ever loved. Forced to build a new life in Octavianus’s household in Rome, she finds herself torn between two young men and two possible destinies—until she reaches out to claim her own.

This stunning novel brings to life the personalities & passions of one of the greatest dramas in history, & offers a wonderful new heroine in Selene.

Discovery: I saw this book on a historical fiction blog and decided to read it because Egyptian history has always intrigued me.

+     Powerful imagery. It’s always difficult to write historical novels without digressing into boring facts and figures. Shecter masterfully painted the world of Cleopatra Selene and her family without ignoring the people and places around them. There was an equal balance of intimacy and historical accuracy. Selene herself approaches everything with a keen eye and a healthy dose of curiosity, giving the novel someone to relate to and understand. I especially loved that Shecter didn’t dwell too much on what Selene or the rest of her family looked like, choosing instead to focus on what they do and letting that define them.

+     Themes. It’s common knowledge that Queen Cleopatra IV is one of the most famous women in history. She is mostly recognized as a seductress, marrying both Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius, which means that the rest of her work in Egypt goes unnoticed. During that time, Cleopatra was surrounded by male rulers who did far more despicable things, yet it is her name that is dragged through the mud. Cleopatra’s Moon gives the reader a unique perspective into a woman who was a mother and a wife, someone who loved and was loved dearly. I saw a comment on a Goodreads review (can’t remember who it was, but this quote is CERTAINLY not mine) that went something like “It’s feminist without being anachronistic” and I have to agree.

Selene herself has to deal with a whole other society in Rome, one very much focused on men and their strengths. I’d like to think that that experience molded her into a woman who knew how to survive using only what she had, and not manipulating others. The Selene of this book is strong but tentative in her actions and decisions. It’s wonderful to watch how she grows and develops the passionate nature her mother passed on to her. She makes mistakes but she doesn’t let them define her. As strong female characters go, Selene fulfills many of the traits I expect and then some.

Recommendations:  Older readers are best served by this novel, due to some intense scenes and mentions of sensuality. The writing style is easy to follow for all readers, however, and the length of the book won’t deter truly interested readers.

Rating:  Excellent.

Go check out Vicky Alvear Shecter’s website and follow her on Twitter @valvearshecter.

You can check out Cleopatra’s Moon on Goodreads and order it over at Amazon and Book Depository.

Next review: And Then Things Fall Apart, Arlaina Tibensky

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