Even if you don’t know the story of Oedipus in ancient Greek mythology, this take on “how it may have unfolded” rewards greatly. Jocasta, queen of The...moreEven if you don’t know the story of Oedipus in ancient Greek mythology, this take on “how it may have unfolded” rewards greatly. Jocasta, queen of Thebes is given a human side. Jocasta and her brother Creon are embroiled in political intrigue. She wants both love and the best for Thebes, struggling with the conflict the two bring. The authors take the Greek myth and demystify it. Tension and suspense drive the plot. The period detail is impressive. What appears to be a heavy subject is remarkably illuminating and accessible.
There will be two sequels highlighting other figures from ancient Greece.
Read as part of the Historical Fictionistas Featured Author program. (less)
Schiff diffuses the mystery surrounding the enigmatic Egyptian queen and last Pharaoh of Egypt, Cleopatra. Often portrayed as a femme fatal who slept...moreSchiff diffuses the mystery surrounding the enigmatic Egyptian queen and last Pharaoh of Egypt, Cleopatra. Often portrayed as a femme fatal who slept her way to success, Cleopatra is portrayed here as an intelligent, shrewd political dealmaker. Yes, she had wealth and power, but this biography focuses on her intellect and ability to unite her people.
I learned a great deal. Alexandria, the leading cultural and educational center in ancient Egypt, had boundlessly resourceful people, hydraulic lifts and coin-operated machines. Intellectualism and sensuality turned it into the Paris of the ancient world. The Nile, thought to have magical powers, was rumored to flow with gold. The propensity for marriage within a family and murder of one’s brother or son was a revelation. Cleopatra indeed wore pearls (the diamonds of her day). People ate with their fingers. The research and detail are impressive.
The relationship between twenty-year-old Cleopatra and fifty-two year old Caesar is particularly interesting. Caesar admired her talent and intellect. Never in Rome would he have found “a woman who raised an army, lent a fleet, controlled a currency.” When she bore his son, she secured diplomacy with Rome, secured the respect of priests, and heightened her “divinity.”
The second half of the book deals with her affair with Marc Antony. Much time is devoted to determining if this was a relationship of passion or political advantage.
Source material about Cleopatra is scarce and Schiff admits this. She fills in much detail about the period of Cleopatra’s reign, but what really happened in the queen’s life is lacking. The book is dense in detail, but more is about the period in which she lived. “She may have,” “there is reason to believe that,” are repeated endlessly. Still, Schiff tries to demystify an elusive, misunderstood regent and give us the best construct of Cleopatra as possible. Can we really know this woman? The cover art, with Cleopatra’s face looking away from us, gives us the answer.
Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont (less)
7th book of the "Masters of Rome" series. McCullough intended to end the series with The October Horse. Despite the title, Cleopatra is less important...more7th book of the "Masters of Rome" series. McCullough intended to end the series with The October Horse. Despite the title, Cleopatra is less important than the political struggle to control the world between Octavian (Caesar's heir), who claims the east (Rome) and Antony, who rules the west. Caesarean, child of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar figures prominently.
By aligning herself with Mark Antony, Cleopatra hoped to keep Octavian (Julius Caesar's heir and Rome's probable next ruler) from absorbing Egypt into the expanding Roman Empire. She uses him as a puppet, but they ultimately fall in love. Octavian finally became ruler (as Caesar Augustus). Antony granted lands and the title, "King of Kings" to Caesarean. According to Plutarch, Caesarean escaped to India after being falsely promised the Egyptian kingdom.
Chock full of intrigue and betrayal,(view spoiler)[ the book reveals Cleopatra's plan to use her romance with Antony to participate in the war councils and rule the world. Antony, finally realizing defeat at the hands of Octavian, falls on his sword. Octavian (after 520 pages)locks Cleopatra in her rooms, promising that if she does not kill herself, her children will be safe. He tells her Caesarion is dead. She kills herself by letting a cobra bite her. After her death, Octavian finds a cobra in his own bed. (hide spoiler)]
Much detail about geography and minor characters makes this a hard read. I read 3 of the other 6 books in the series and enjoyed this the least. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Orson Scott Card is well-known for his science fiction novels, especially Ender’s Game (insert link). Now he ventures into the stories of women of the...moreOrson Scott Card is well-known for his science fiction novels, especially Ender’s Game (insert link). Now he ventures into the stories of women of the Bible. Card himself states, “Women did not show up much in historical records.”
The book is a retelling of the biblical story of Sarah, wife of Abram. The setting is in the Middle East during ancient times. At the age of ten, Sarah meets Abram and falls in love at first sight. He pledges to come back and marry her and within ten years, he does. Card portrays Sarai as a courageous Hebrew woman from the house of Ur, always devoted to her husband, the patriarch, Abram. She deals with desert life, barrenness and jealousy. Their marriage takes her from Ur, a city on the banks of the Euphrates River in ancient Sumeria, to Canaan, Pharaoh’s palace in Egypt, and back to Canaan.
We can’t possibly know if the real Sarai acted and reacted as Card writes her because the Biblical account of her is sketchy. In this book, she is a living, breathing, complex woman. Cultural and social details are there (not plentiful), but the overriding subject is Sarah and her relationships. She admirably tolerated her ever-complaining sister, Qira. I found it refreshing to read about Abram through the eyes of his wife.
In this fictional account, the author combines historical and archeological details, the Genesis account and his imagination to bring Sarai to life. If you can accept that certain details are changed to suit the author’s pen, you will enjoy this sensitive recreation of Sarai, wife of Abraham. Some of the male/female dynamics are not quite accurate due to the male dominated hierarchy of the time but they add zest to the story.
I admire the author (male) for going out on a limb to recreate a biblical character (female). I wanted to like this book more than I did. I was somewhat put off because it was heavy on dialogue that sounded very modern.
Excellent quote, “Faith doesn’t mean that you never doubt. It only means that you never act upon your doubts.”
In Card’s version, (view spoiler)[ Ishmael tries to harm Isaac and Hagar leaves camp of her own accord. Lot’s wife, Qira, is not turned into a pillar of stone when leaving Sodom, but is blown up in the destruction of the city. (hide spoiler)]
I admire author Michelle Moran greatly. She has a way of setting you immediately right into the time period she writes about. Many of the details abou...moreI admire author Michelle Moran greatly. She has a way of setting you immediately right into the time period she writes about. Many of the details about what happened to Cleopatra's children were fascinating. The characters in this book, however, seemed wooden to me. I thought Selene's outrage at the treatment of slaves odd, since she grew up in her mother's palace, filled with slaves.
In preparation for Jean M. Auel's new release, The Land of Painted Caves to be released in March Much repetition from prior novels. Hoping the last in...moreIn preparation for Jean M. Auel's new release, The Land of Painted Caves to be released in March Much repetition from prior novels. Hoping the last in the series to be unique.(less)