Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


***All photos accompanying posts are either owned by the author of said post or are in the public domain -- NOT the property of History Undressed. If you'd like to obtain permission to use a picture from a post, please contact the author of the post.***

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Historical Novel Review: Song of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

I recently had the pleasure of reading Stephanie Dray's second novel in her Cleopatra's Daughter series, Song of the Nile.

If you'd like to read my review of the first novel, Lily of the Nile, click here.

BOOK INFO: (borrowed from the author's website)

Sorceress. Seductress. Schemer. Cleopatra’s daughter has become the emperor’s most unlikely apprentice and the one woman who can destroy his empire…
Having survived her perilous childhood as a royal captive of Rome, Selene pledged her loyalty to Augustus and swore she would become his very own Cleopatra. Now the young queen faces an uncertain destiny in a foreign land.
Forced to marry a man of the emperor’s choosing, Selene will not allow her new husband to rule in her name. She quickly establishes herself as a capable leader in her own right and as a religious icon. Beginning the hard work of building a new nation, she wins the love of her new subjects and makes herself vital to Rome by bringing forth bountiful harvests.
But it’s the magic of Isis flowing through her veins that makes her indispensable to the emperor. Against a backdrop of imperial politics and religious persecution, Cleopatra’s daughter beguiles her way to the very precipice of power. She has never forgotten her birthright, but will the price of her mother’s throne be more than she’s willing to pay?
Berkley Trade October 2011 (Trade Paperback)
# ISBN-10: 0425243044
# ISBN-13: 9780425243046

MY REVIEW: (may contain some spoilers, but not really)

I really really really liked the first book in this series and so I was looking forward to seeing what happened next in Selene's life. She was such a strong young woman with so much going for her. Would she find her brother? What would happen between her and the emperor? Livia? Everyone else? Would she ever regain her mother's kingdom?

This book starts out just as riveting as the last book, pulling me in. The author has done a lot of research into her setting, events during the time period, the people, materials, food, clothing, dye, ships, religion, and so much more. When an author does this extent of research and weaves it into the story so well that I feel I am deep within a the period--as if I time-traveled--then they've done a great job! And Ms. Dray certainly did that.

There is a lot of controversy regarding a topic that takes place in this novel--incest. Please keep reading for a full understanding of this. It was not done in a gross or icky way, and if you read the first story, or have some knowledge on Egyptian culture, then you would realize this was not taboo in the time period. Cleopatra--Selene's own mother--married her brother. Many royals have married within the family to keep the crown, money, lands for themselves. I've read conflicting reviews about the relationship between Selene and her brother. I must say that within the context of this book, it did not bother me for a number of reasons.   One: in the first book it is said they are to be married. They've grown up believing they will be married. Two: Selene herself explains that she does not see him as her brother. He is her soul mate, her healer. There is no historical evidence that his relationship actually occurred, but I applaud the author for taking a leap, and for doing it in a tasteful way.

The relationship between Octavia and Selene really puts me through an emotional wringer! I really don't like him--yet I understand him (except for the rape--that I was really tormented over). I am so mad at how he treats her, uses her, I want to jump within the pages and punch him! His wife, Livia, is even worse. I feel so bad for Selene that she has to deal with these people. Now, I must explain why I said I understand him. During that time period, emperor's had to be ruthless to keep their place. They were assassinated by their peers without warning, so I understand why he's the way he is, and Dray did a great job portraying that.

For me, I saw Selene really struggling with becoming an adult. There was so much she had to deal with--a new husband who she despised and also loved at the same time, being raped, having a child, building a country, trying to establish her place in her new kingdom, dealing with negative council members, tribesmen, people altogether, friendships, her relationship with her brother, seeking her mother's kingdom, and oh-so-much more. I can see her becoming depressed, confused, angry, frustrated. It is a struggle that really affects the reader. Sometimes I wanted to shout at her for her decisions and other times I shouted for joy at her triumphs. In the end, Selene came out on top, and I was proud of her.  I eagerly look forward to reading the third book.

Well done, Ms. Dray!

If you enjoy reading books in this era, than I would recommend reading Song of the Nile, but be warned it does contain controversial material, and will affect you emotionally as you read.



Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this with me!! I've only read the one book on her daughter and I am so obsessed with Cleopatra's life that I read about everything I can find!! I'm super stoked to check these two out!

Unknown said...

I hope you do, Crystal. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!