The final volume of this marvelous series by Stephanie Dray has once again awakened in me a fierce envy of her ability to tell a tale. Riveting, complex characters, their every emotion escaped through the pages and drew me into the fabric of their joys, sorrows, defeats and victories. There is very little in the historical record about Cleopatra Selene, but what the author has done with that very little is just plain and simple good tale telling. Her Selene is believable; from the frightened child being paraded in Octavian’s Triumph, to a Queen, mother and revered priestess of Isis, you get the sense that this could be her historical record or at least a reasonable facsimile. Throw in the depiction of Augustus and his quest for more and more power, his manipulating of Selene and Juba, the tension between the contestants to be Augustus’ heir and you have an epic story that even a crusty old cynic might get a little misty over. 5 stars
Being what you may call an amateur historian since my teens, oh those many years ago, I am always looking for material, whether non-fiction or fiction, to feed me; to teach me. This series by Richard Abbot has been an eye opener regarding the area of the Near East, Palestine, The Levant; whatever you want to call it. So many groups have either settled there or held sway over it through the centuries and in The Flame Before Us they all meet. Wilios or Troy has finally fallen after a prolonged siege and while it is still up for debate and discussion as to what happened to the invaders after the war; while there were some who returned to their homes across The Aegean Sea, others remained and drifted south to find new lands to call home. That is the crux of book 3 as these mysterious Sea Peoples come into contact with, in some cases violently, with the Kinahny, the Hittite, the Ibriym, the Mitsriy; in short the whole gamut of Old Testament peoples. The author has crafted a tale filled with memorable characters and has given us a glimpse into the possibilities of so many disparate groups coming together in a region that has seen nothing but strife even unto today. From the noble, nose in the air, Egyptians to the settlements of peasants to the nomadic clans, we have a tale of loss, hardship, and hope as cultures collide and times change. Kudos to the author for a most enjoyable series. I look forward to more. 5 stars
Cleopatra Selene, daughter of Mark Antony and Queen Cleopatra is once again marvelously portrayed by Stephanie Dray in the second book of this trilogy tale. The author is on form as she brings the child of book one into a woman driven by the prospect of becoming Queen of Egypt and restoring Isis to prominence. Of course, in order to reach those lofty goals she has to contend with a devious Augustus and his take no prisoners wife, Livia. The story is mostly set during Selene’s reign as Queen and wife to King Juba of Mauretania and details her struggle to maintain the legacy of her mother while learning the dos and don’ts of statecraft and dealing with the maddening antics and commands of Caesar Augustus. The author has given us a tale full of intrigue, hope and desire. It’s a dangerous game trying to outfox a man determined to add to his power over the Roman world and his determination to protect his legacy and the future of his family’s role in ruling the world. The tale is also replete with some surprises, both good and bad, yet Selene finds the strength to persevere in a world where she is often misunderstood by those who want to bring her down. I am looking forward to the finale. 5 stars.
The son of Gaius Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, Caesarion, seems to get most of the press in fiction in relation to the three children borne by Cleopatra with Marcus Antonius, Selene, Helios and Philadelphus. The fate of those three is the backdrop to Stephanie Dray’s series starting with Lily of the Nile. I was captivated from the get go as the author begins with Cleopatra’s death and the arrival in Rome of the children as part of Octavian’s Triumph; a humiliating experience to say the least. They are given over to Octavia’s care but it’s Octavian with help from Livia who are the true architects of the children’s future. The interaction between Octavian and Selene progresses through the story and is one of the highlights of the book. The author does a superb job in that relationship, one that changes/grows as the power of Isis is made manifest in Selene. The erstwhile rulers of Egypt never give up their hope of being restored to their rightful place but there are many obstacles and lessons to be learned. I really enjoyed this story, the portrayal of Caesar Augustus is especially well done as are the characters of the twins…indeed this is a hallmark of Stephanie Dray’s writing acumen…the way she draws the reader into a character’s state of mind. Looking forward to the rest of this series… 5 stars.