February 17, 2011

Review: LILY OF THE NILE by Stephanie Dray

From Amazon.com:

With her parents dead, the daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony is left at the mercy of her Roman captors. Heir to one empire and prisoner of another, Princess Selene must save her brothers and reclaim what is rightfully hers...

In the aftermath of Alexandria's tragic fall, Princess Selene is taken from Egypt, the only home she's ever known. Along with her two surviving brothers, she's put on display as a war trophy in Rome. Selene's captors mock her royalty and drag her through the streets in chains, but on the brink of death, the children are spared as a favor to the emperor's sister, who takes them to live as hostages in the so-called lamentable embassy of royal orphans...

Trapped in a Roman court of intrigue that reviles her heritage and suspects her faith, Selene can't hide the hieroglyphics that carve themselves into her flesh. Nor can she stop the emperor from using her for his own political ends. Faced with a new and ruthless Caesar who is obsessed with having a Cleopatra of his very own, Selene is determined to honor her mother's lost legacy. The magic of Egypt and Isis remain within her. Can she succeed where her mother failed? And what will it cost her in a political game where the only rule is win or die?

The cover: The lilies, the cool reflecting pool, and Selene's gorgeous white toga drew me to the book. Though I never quite got to the point of imaging Selene this old, the model is lovely and does her justice beautifully.

The book: I love historical fiction, so when I came across a book about Roman and Egyptian history, I couldn't resist.  Dray's debut, which is the first in a trilogy about Cleopatra's daughter, did not disappoint. Halfway through, I realized the book didn't feel like MG or YA. I'm not sure what reading level it is categorized. This was confusing, because I read the book courtesy of an ARC tour website that typically focuses on YA. However, it made no difference in my enjoyment of the book.

LILY OF THE NILE is narrated by Selene, daughter of Cleopatra and Marc Antony, looking back on the events of her late childhood and early teen years. Selene's narration is mature and engaging; so engaging, in fact, that I was confused and sad and angry right along with Selene as she struggled to find a place in her new home, a collection of Augustus Caesar's biological children, nieces and nephews, and the orphans of his great enemies, Marc Antony and Cleopatra.

Dray painted Augustus Caesar, Selene's twisted father figure and de-facto captor, realistically complex. I couldn't decide if he was good or bad; the true answer, I think, at least in respect to Selene's story (my background in this area of history isn't good enough to comment on the actual man) was that he was neither, making choices that were sometimes cruel and sometimes fair.

My favorite thing about LILY, though, was the setting. Dray did a marvelous job describing ancient Rome in beautiful detail, from flowers to architecture to fashion, in a vivid but not over-the-top way. Selene's fierce intelligence and relatable characterization certainly didn't hurt, either.

Recommended especially for: lovers of historical fiction, ancient societies, and MCs who are clever but unsure of themselves

Book courtesy of Star Book Tours.


Pam Harris said...

Ooh, I love anything about Cleopatra and Mark Antony--might just have to check this out. :)

Yahong Chi said...

Thanks for the recommendation - I don't usually dig historicals, but this one seems good. :)

Emy Shin said...

I haven't read a lot of historical fiction (unless it's set in Victorian England), and this sounds very fascinating. I definitely do need to check it out. Thanks for the review, Abby!

Shweta said...

I am huge on Historical Fiction and I think this would be a good addition to books on Selene.

Michelle Moran's Cleopatra's Daughter is also told in Selene's voice . It's a great book and totally falls under YA :)

I love this cover too and thanks for putting this one on my radar.

Jen Daiker said...

This sounds delicious!! I love the cover, definitely one that I'll be ordering!!

Your blog is so cute and fun!

Abby Stevens said...

Pam - both Cleopatra and Marc Antony are dead by the time the book really gets started, but their daughter was a fascinating person. I'd say give it a shot if you have the time. :)

Yahong - Thanks! It really was good. And the first in a trilogy.

Emy - I mostly read Regency and Victorian era historical fiction, too, as well as Colonial American, so this was a departure from my usual, but it was great.

Shweta, I will have to check CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER out. Thanks for the rec!

Jen - Thank you! Let me know how you like the book!

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