Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Cleopatra's Shadows” as Want to Read:
Cleopatra's Shadows
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Cleopatra's Shadows

(Fall of Egypt #1)

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  1,151 ratings  ·  207 reviews
Page-turning historical fiction that reimagines the beginnings of Cleopatra's epic saga through the eyes of her younger sister.

Before Caesar and the carpet, before Antony and Actium, before Octavian and the asp, there was Arsinoe.

Abandoned by her beloved Cleopatra and an indifferent father, young Arsinoe must fight for her survival in the bloodthirsty royal court when her
Paperback, 432 pages
Published June 16th 2016 by Sphere (first published October 1st 2015)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Cleopatra's Shadows, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Kristinepruitt i agree, the ending was rushed and many plot lines were not wrapped up very well. I hope to see some resolved in the next book as well as better…morei agree, the ending was rushed and many plot lines were not wrapped up very well. I hope to see some resolved in the next book as well as better pacing of the entire book.
Susan Slack Hello Mony. The author states at the end of the Arc copy I received that it was based on the fragments of history that are left or written by people…moreHello Mony. The author states at the end of the Arc copy I received that it was based on the fragments of history that are left or written by people years later or from other cultures. You may know that the city of Alexandria was lost to the Mediterranean long ago. (less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.48  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,151 ratings  ·  207 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Cleopatra's Shadows
BAM The Bibliomaniac
A big thank you to Back Bay Books, Emily Holleman, and Goodreads for the free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
Maybe a 3.5? A great new perspective! No one typically takes the time to study Berenice. Or to describe Arsinoe's childhood . These women lived in Cleopatra's shadow. Cleopatra was her father's favorite and his acknowledged heir. Alexandria was a jewel in the Egyptian crown. It needed a strong ruler. In Ptolemy it had a drunken, licentious fool. But Rome backed up
Anyone who knows me well knows that I have always adored books on Cleopatra. I also love literature on Egypt in general.

Through the years I have read so many books on Cleopatra, with "I Cleopatra" by William Bostwick being one of my all time favorite reads.

This book, Cleopatra's Shadows, is a bit different. It concentrates, not on Cleopatra, but on two of her sisters, Berenice and Arsinoe.

King Ptolemy, their father, has been forced into exile, along with Cleopatra. Berenice, the elder
Jun 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is definitely a 4.5 star book for me. It would've been higher, but the beginning didn't capture my attention enough. I considered putting it down to read something else a few times, but Im glad I stuck with it. The last half or so more than made up for the beginning. I think my favorite aspect of the book was learning about the Egyptian culture. We learned about their gods and their customs. Sure, the Ptolemies were Greek and Macedonian so it's not like we're learning about the pharaohs ...more
Linda Robinson
Ptolemy XII Auletes (ca. 112-51 BCE) "The Piper," in this marvelously historical novel, was pharoah, ruler of upper and lower and all that and very much disliked in Alexandria. He was a dilettante and not very politically astute, got himself coup d'etat-ed out of power. This novel launches along with his round ship, crimson sails furled against the rising sun as he blows town along with his daughter Cleopatra (yep, that Cleopatra). Left on the dock in her nightgown is Cleopatra's half-sister ...more
Melanie (Mel's Bookland Adventures)
I really wanted to like this and it had some nice moments. The main problem for me was that the main characters Arsinoe and Berenice just remained so passive and yes I know that there are historical figures and limited scope but that time period is hugely up for interpretation. A bit disappointed.
Everybody more or less knows the story of Cleopatra, the charismatic last queen of Egypt, but few know that she had two sisters who reigned as well, even if briefly. Those women, named Berenice and Arsinoe, take center stage in Cleopatra's Shadows, Emily Holleman's debut.

I know almost nothing about Egypt history, but I had heard about Arsinoe before and was very intrigued by her. So when I first heard about this book I was terribly excited, and in the end... the book was even better than what I
Reeda Booke
I was intrigued by the idea of this book mainly because there is an abundance of material on the famous Cleopatra, but you don't see much in the way of stories that deal with her sisters, Arsinoe and Berenice. Unfortunately, this one was a bit of a letdown for me. Too much extraneous melodrama used as fluff, and I just found it to be uninteresting. It wasn't riveting or engaging enough for me to really care about any of the characters at all.

Apparently this is the first of a series, but I don't
Sep 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book. I know little about Cleopatra besides the obvious so I was interested in finding out more about the two sisters. I especially liked Berenice who seemed to be caught up in more than she could handle. Impressive first book. Looking forward to more in this series.
Mar 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Managed to pick up an ARC given to my library.

There's always a lot of debate about what happened to Cleopatra in the three years in which her father appealed to Rome for help, her sister Berenice took the throne, and no one's really sure what happened to Cleopatra, Arsinoe, and their two younger brothers. But in this touching tale of what happened to the young Princess Arsinoe, left behind in Alexandria, we are left with Holleman's logic. Would Ptolemy have left Cleopatra and Arsinoe behind?
Ravin Maurice
Aug 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been fascinated with Cleopatra for most of my life, but it wasn't until the past few years that I learned about Cleopatra's sisters. My interest in Arsinoe runs very deep, and I knew very little of Berenice until I read this book.
Holleman has woven quite a tale, with chapters alternating perspectives between Arsinoe and Berenice. The novel opens with their father Ptolemy the Piper and the famed Cleopatra fleeing Alexandria, where Berenice has taken her father's throne to become Berenice
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cleopatra's Shadows highlights the forgotten sisters as they fight for survival after they are left abandoned in a court riddled with treachery.

This was a brilliant story that was vividly detailed, executed marvelously and written with such beauty that I found myself clinging to every word. Emily Holleman spared no detail when crafting this tale, from the references to ancient Greek mythology and revered plays, to the unique insight into the sisters' lives. All these intriguing components
Gilda Felt
Nov 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have to thank a good friend for turning me on to this book. Like most people, I know little of Cleopatra’s life beyond her relationship with Caesar. I knew even less about her family, so I didn’t know what was factual, and what was made up, though I’ve read that the story is soundly based in fact. Either way, that’s okay, because the book is highly readable and entertaining. Both sisters are well-rounded characters that you come to know and like, no matter that both, especially Berenice, are ...more
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great start to the series. This was exactly was I was looking for to start my new reading year out. The novel focuses on the Ptolemaic Dynasty during the time of Cleopatra but is told from her sister's point of view. There are a lot of Cleopatra books out there, so it was refreshing to get a different perspective. I look forward to more.
From the moment I heard of this book, I was desperate to read it and it exceeded all my high expectations. I absolutely adored it, particularly the character of Berenice. A mesmerising read.

Nov 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, history
Cleopatra's Shadows has an interesting twist on a historical character/story that most people think they know. I enjoyed the focus on Cleopatra's sisters, Arsinoe and Berenice. The structure was interesting but easy to follow and I was drawn in by the characters.

The Ptolemies have lots of characteristics that make them fascinating: the whole marry your sister thing, their dealings with Rome and the strong characters that continue to fascinate even though we know next to nothing about them.
The FountainPenDiva, Old school geek chick and lover of teddy bears
Fiction is full of stories about Cleopatra , but there's very little about her sisters Berenice and Arsinoe. Until now. Lots of palace intrigue and a more sympathetic rendering of the other Ptolemy daughters.
Emily Holleman brings the imagery and prose of literary fiction to Ptolemaic Egypt in Cleopatra's Shadows, her first novel. This book fills in and offers a possible answer to unanswered questions: what were the lives of Cleopatra's less-famous sisters like? Overall, I believe Holleman's vision paints a compelling portrait of Berenice and Arsinoe, and though it wasn't a perfect read, Cleopatra's Shadows was still quite good.

In the interest of full disclosure: pre-Battle of Actium Egypt is my
She soared over the city, parched and desolate.

Arsinoe is the younger sister of Cleopatra who is left behind when their father Ptolemy flees Egypt with his favored daughter, Cleopatra. She returns to the palace and finds servants slain and everything in chaos.

This is a very interesting account of Cleopatra's sisters. Berenice is her older half sister and Arsinoe is her younger sister. Berenice is determined to take over the kingdom her father left behind. Arsinoe must overcome her hero worship
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This wasn’t anything ground moving.
The novel takes the structure of the eldest and the youngest daughters version of events - a chapter per daughter .
I liked the take on the time period - but oddly found it strange that as this was during the Ptolemy ruling there would of been Egyptians worshipping Egyptian gods and not Zeus etc- there was no reference to the Egyptian faith at all throughout the book only the gods left by Alexander the Great. I think it might of been more true to history to
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received this book through a Goodreads giveaway. I didn't know much about the end of the Ptolemy line beyond the Cleopatra story but found the story of her siblings fascinating. I really enjoyed the shifts in perspective between the two half-sisters (Berenice and Arsinoe) as their stories played out concurrently and found the characters likeable and interesting with good character development. I would definitely read more by this author.
Did not finish.

In a week I never got more that 15 pages in.
April robinson
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-summer
Good book liked it very much and I will say that I am looking forward to reading the whole series !
Lili's Bookshelf
This book was incredibly rich and wonderful. I have always been a huge fan of Egyptian history, and while Cleopatra and the Ptolomaic dynasties always drew me in, I know more about pre-Alexander the Great Egypt (Nefertiti, King Tut, etc.). I forget that Cleopatra's family wasn't entirely native to Egypt, but had a lot of Greek and Macedonian blood as well.
All that to say, this story actually has very little to do with Cleopatra. If you had told that to me prior to me reading the book, I would
Oct 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The beginning was interesting and had me immediately sucked in. The story then came to a lull where the author was building up a story that took too long to reach. However, once it finally picked back up, I was once again consumed by it. I was turning each page desiring to get to the end so I could discover the fate of the couple of different characters the author attached me to. However, you don't find out their fate. Your left with an assumption of their fate which is annoying because I was ...more
Oct 12, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Thank you to the Goodreads First Reads giveaways program for an advanced copy of “Cleopatra’s Shadows” by Emily Holleman.

This intensively-researched historical novel will particularly appeal to readers interested in Egyptian history. Chapters alternate between the two “shadows,” or sisters, of Cleopatra: Arsinoe, the eight-year-old daughter of King Ptolemy, and Berenice, the first queen to lead Egypt alone in a thousand years. Arsinoe is left behind by her father and Cleopatra, and she
TammyJo Eckhart
Dec 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Author Emily Holleman has done a decent job of imagining what life might have been like for two of Cleopatra's sisters while their father, King Ptolemy XII, is away trying to get Roman support of his rule while dueling wife and concubine compete. We see Alexandria through the eyes of Berenice, daughter of his wife, and the eyes of much younger Arsinoe, daughter of his concubine. Holleman follows Strabo's accounts in terms of family relations and rules for the most part.

The book is laid out in
Dec 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book enjoyable and got caught up in the court intrigues of Ptolemy, Cleopatra and Berenice and Arsinoe. Being a princess is not always a great thing as in those days, murder of siblin1gs was common in the quest for power. This novel gives you the insight of a young girl (9-11) in the length of this story. Arsinoe was Cleopatra's little sister and Berenice's half sister. War torn Alexandria against the might of Rome supported armies bring this tale of a coup for power to life.
a bit melodramatic for me, but very good historical novel of ptolemy trying to re-take his capital with a roman army, arsinoe (little sister) thrown to the wolves (well, to her sister berenice, first queen in a 1000 year) when her big sister Cleopatra precipitously takes off. fun and informative book. lots of good history here, with modern narrative.
Aug 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. I love historical fiction that shares the perspectives and stories of lesser known characters within the time period. This book did not disappoint. I loved the characters and how each of the sisters characters unfolded with the telling of their stories.
Interesting book about Cleopatra's sisters. Never thought I would read a book like this. A good book
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Child of the Morning
  • The Invention of Fire (John Gower, #2)
  • The Goodbye Quilt
  • A Burnable Book (John Gower, #1)
  • Our Lady of the Ice
  • Lily of the Nile (Cleopatra's Daughter, #1)
  • The Translation of Love
  • The Marriage Game: A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I
  • Mavis and Dot
  • The Winter Sisters
  • The Virgin's Spy (Tudor Legacy, #2)
  • King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table
  • The Surrendered
  • Sheer Abandon
  • Shadow on the Crown (The Emma of Normandy Trilogy #1)
  • Face Down Before Rebel Hooves (Susanna, Lady Appleton, #6)
  • Marlene
See similar books…
Emily Holleman is a Brooklyn-based writer. After a two-year editing stint at where she had to worry a lot about politics, celebrities and memes, she returned to her true passion: fiction. She’s currently working on a set of historical novels that reimagines the saga of Cleopatra from the perspective of her younger sister, Arsinoe. The first of these, Cleopatra’s Shadows, will be ...more

Other books in the series

Fall of Egypt (2 books)
  • The Drowning King (Fall of Egypt #2)
“I don't think that being unafraid is the same as being brave. I think bravery is when you go on even though you are frightened. -Alexander tells Arsinoe” 2 likes
“I don't think that being unafraid is the same as being brave. I think bravery is when you go even though you are frightened."- Alexander tells Arsinoe

Cleopatra's Shadows”
More quotes…