The book begins at 31BC, when Octavian defeats Marc Antony's forces at the Battle of Actium. We all know what happens, Marc Antony and Cleopatra commit suicide to avoid being taken as prisoner by Octavian and their three children were taken to Rome by Octavian.
The rest of the novel chronicles the early life of Cleopatra Selene, and is told in her point of view, as she experiences and sees Rome. How Alexandria is so much different to Rome, how she fears for her life, as she awaits Octavian's orders to marry her off to a senator, and basic, everyday life in Rome with her friends.
Thoughts - This novel is well-researched as I read about numerous rituals, gods, and "events" happening in Ancient Rome and Egypt. I am fascinated by how the author fed me these information - it's as if I was living in those times as well. And I would never have known all about those rituals, gods, and events, had it not for me 1) reading the book and 2) researching them as well.
This book also chronicles a glossary at the back, so if you get lost in the wonder that is Ancient Rome and Egypt, head on to the glossary and you'll have something to guide your way. Although not everything is explained or described in the glossary, if you're a curious reader like myself, you'll spend hours traipsing around Wikipedia, searching for the characters, events, and terms!Some of the buildings described in the novel may not be standing anymore [ie the Library of Alexandria], it's definitely fun to imagine them! There's even a map at the front part of the book to let you imagine how Rome looked like way back then. And also plots Europe and the other cities in there. Excellent.
Although the book may become boring at some parts, the mystery of the Red Eagle will be sure to rouse you a bit. But for those of you who are looking for an action-packed novel, well, there's definitely not a lot in this book, so don't expect too much. However, I found myself wondering what would happen next to the characters so I'm guilty of looking through the next few pages [oh all right, even right through to the last chapters], trying to get a sneak peek of what might happen next!
Overall, the book was an honest and pretty accurate description of daily life in Ancient Rome. How much simpler the times were then, and how various forces eventually shaped the characters of Tiberius [who will eventually become the Roman Emperor when Jesus was crucified], Selene, Julia, Marcellus, Juba, and Agrippa. I feel these characters were well-developed and felt very "alive", although Selene's stubbornness has got me annoyed most of the time. But hey, feeling annoyed at a character definitely means the book got to you, right?
The author went all ou to try and give a very visual representation and feeling to the readers that they are indeed in that time, that place. Exquisite attention to the details too! Very informational for readers like me. This book made me want to get on a plane and explore Alexandria and Rome, and see some of the structures that were still standing!
So, on to the rating & information:
Final Rating: 4.5/5
Read it if: You're looking for something historical to read and want to learn more about Ancient Egypt!
Many, many thanks to Michelle Moran for providing a copy of the book!