Review: Cleopatra’s Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter

August 1, 2011 Historical Fiction, Review, Scholastic, YA 10

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover:368 pages
  • Publisher:Arthur A. Levine Books (August 1, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0545221307
  • Source: Publisher

Cleopatra VIII Selene, Princess of Egypt, is the only daughter of Cleopatra VII and Marcus Antonius. She’s grown up in luxury in the regal city of Alexandria.  However, when Egypt goes to war with Rome, her entire world and everything it has ever stood for is pulled out from underneath her. Her family is shattered, all at the hands of the emperor of Rome, Octavianus.

Cleopatra Selene and her two brothers are forced to move to Rome, an existence much different than the life they had in Alexandria. Forced to live in the home of their enemy, they are constantly bombarded with threats of death and torture each time they walk outside the walls of the compound.

Like her mother before here, Cleopatra Selene must gather all the strength and power she has to regain claim over Egypt once again.  She’s forced to chose between two men, and two very different destinies.

While technically a young adult novel, Cleopatra’s Moon is most definitely a novel that would appeal to readers of all ages.  We have all read about the powerful Celopatra and Marcus Antonius, but not much has been written about their daughter.

This novel is full of rich and detailed characters. Cleopatra Selene herself starts out as a young and naive princess, but is forced to evolve into quite the strong woman. She is not passive in her feelings about their “imprisonment,” she risks her life on several occasions to protect her siblings and their family name. Additionally, one can’t help but love Cleopatra Selene’s youngest brother, “Ptolly.” Barely out of the toddler stages when he loses his parents, he’s too young and naive to really understand what has happened.

Potentially the most compelling part of this novel is the rich description of the settings of both Egypt and Rome.  It was interesting to see how differently woman were treated in each of these settings.  In Egypt, with Cleopatra as the queen, women were powerful and regal figures. In Rome, on the otherhand, they were mostly confined to the castle, not free to roam and explore. In Egypt, the women of royalty had individual and unique names while in Rome the women generally shared the same name. A part of history I admit to not being very familiar with, I believe in reading this book I gained a much stronger understanding of this important time in history.

The character list in the beginning of the book was essential; with so many characters with similar names it was hard to keep the characters straight at first. Additionally, the “Facts Within the Fiction” section at the end broke down which aspects of the book were based on fact and which were fictionalized in the writing of the novel.

My only complaint would be the ending.  Throughout the novel, Selene’s character was built up as a strong and powerful one. She chose power rather than love, but in the end, this seemed to be forgotten.  That said, this is just a minor issue I have, not really taking away from my overall opinion of the book.

Fans of historical fiction can’t afford to miss out on this book! Highly recommended.

10 Responses to “Review: Cleopatra’s Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter”

  1. Pam

    I can definitely understand the reason for your frustration on the ending. I’ve read quite a few books that have had that sort of thing has popped up. Looks like the rest of the book is worth it, though!

  2. Beth(bookaholicmom)

    Even though the ending was disappointing, the rest of the book sounds worthwhile. Selene is a character I hadn’t hear much about before but she seems to be popping up these days in books. I’ll have to check this one out!

  3. Amy
    Twitter: JustBookReading

    Selene is a character you don’t see much which has me intrigued. That and I love books set in Egypt. I’m sorry to hear about the ending but I think I’ll give it a shot anyway.

    • Jenn
      Twitter: jennbookshelves

      The ending isn’t THAT bad, just not what I expected. I’d love to hear what you think of the book after you finish!

  4. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    I tried reading the nonfiction Cleopatra book that came out last fall and it was too dense for me – this one’s probably more my speed.

    • Jenn
      Twitter: jennbookshelves

      I had the same experience! I think you’d like this one!