Monday, January 3, 2011

Review: Lily of the Nile

Summary: Heiress of one empire and prisoner of another, it is up to the daughter of Cleopatra to save her brothers and reclaim what is rightfully hers...

To Isis worshippers, Princess Selene and her twin brother Helios embody the divine celestial pair who will bring about a Golden Age. But when Selene's parents are vanquished by Rome, her auspicious birth becomes a curse. Trapped in an empire that reviles her heritage and suspects her faith, the young messianic princess struggles for survival in a Roman court of intrigue. She can't hide the hieroglyphics that carve themselves into her hands, nor can she stop the emperor from using her powers for his own ends. But faced with a new and ruthless Caesar who is obsessed with having a Cleopatra of his very own, Selene is determined to resurrect her mother's dreams. Can she succeed where her mother failed? And what will it cost her in a political game where the only rule is win-or die? -- Berkley

It's no secret to those that know me that I adore Michelle Moran both as a person and an author. She has written numerous books that I absolutely love including CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER (my review.) So when I heard that there was a new book out called LILY OF THE NILE by Stephanie Dray which was also a story about Cleopatra's daughter, I kind of had mixed feelings. On one hand, I am fascinated with ancient Rome and Cleopatra; however, on the other hand, I was afraid that I'd be disappointed with another portrayal of Selene.

I need not have worried... I really, really liked LILY OF THE NILE, and I highly recommend it to those of you who enjoy historical fiction. In fact, I read it in less than a day because I was captivated by Princess Selene's story. I thought Ms. Dray's portrayal of Selene as well as the other characters was fresh and original, and I really appreciated how she incorporated some elements of the supernatural into the story. There is no doubt that LILY OF THE NILE definitely stands on its own as a terrific rendering of Selene's story. (You might be interested to know that LILY OF THE NILE was actually written before Ms. Moran's CLEOPATRA'S DAUGHTER.)

LILY OF THE NILE is a wonderful example of great historical fiction. It's obvious that Ms. Dray did a tremendous amount of research on ancient Rome, but what's even more impressive is how she brought the various characters to life. She did a marvelous job of incorporating what is known about these individuals while also managing to create memorable and complex personalities for them. I was pleasantly surprised by how well developed the characters were, and I loved all of the complicated interactions/relationships between them.

There are so many great things about this book, but I think my favorite part was the character of Selene. I loved how complex and real she was. When the book begins, Selene is a young girl who is thrown into a horrible situation when both of her parents commit suicide and she is captured by Augustus. Of course, I felt pity for her and her brothers; however, I was hopeful because I also saw a glimmer of the woman that she would eventually become. Selene was incredibly brave and smart, but she was also very human -- and I loved that about her. She had a horrible temper, she held grudges, she was deceptive, but she was also cunning and did what it took for her to survive. I especially appreciated how the author portrayed her as having a crisis of her faith -- who could really blame her with everything that happened to her? I really can't stress enough what a fantastic (and complex) character Selene was.

LILY OF THE NILE is the first in a trilogy of books about Princess Selene. The book definitely stands on its own; however, I can't wait for the next book in the series. When LILY OF THE NILE ends, Princess Selene is embarking on the next stage of her life -- she is marrying Juba, leaving Rome, and planning on being a strong and powerful queen in Africa. I adored Selene's character (and I truly appreciated her growth throughout the novel), and I am extremely curious to see what Selene will do next!

I really think LILY OF THE NILE is a must-read for book clubs who enjoy historical fiction. The story is wonderful, but the characters are even more interesting to talk about. There is a great reading guide in the back of the book. I mean really great -- and unlike any other I've seen! The first section of the guide is sixteen discussion questions about the story -- the characters, the magic and the meaning. Then the next section consists of ten questions about the history -- Rome, Egypt, and the Augustan Age; and the final section is ten questions about the cultural implications of the novel -- religion, feminism, and propaganda. Needless to say, there is not a lack of things to discuss with this book.

Make sure you stop by tomorrow because Stephanie Dray will be stopping by with a fantastic guest post!

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of this book.

14 comments:

Pam said...

I had a fantastic guest post from Dray as well! She sent me an e-copy of this book but the email was lost in what I call the email catastrophe of 2010. I didn't want to ask for the file again. Glad to hear it is great!

Veens said...

I absolutely love Michelle too and I had the same thoughts when I heard about this book because I adored Selene in Michelle's book!

I am glad this one turned out so good!

Mary said...

Thanks for reviewing this book (hadn't heard of it). I too loved Michelle Moran's Cleopatra's Daughter. When I finished reading it I looked for other books about what happened after this time in Selene's life. There's not much out there so I'm very excited to hear this is the first in a trilogy! I'll look for Lily.

bermudaonion said...

I think my book club would probably like this. We're reading The Borgia Bride for January and everyone is excited about it.

Karlie said...

Sounds like a great read! Thanks for the review.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I'm listening to Cleopatra now, and when I finish, I plan to get to Cleopatra's Daughter (finally). I'll be interested to see how they relate to one another.

marthalama said...

I have just gotten back into historical fiction. Thanks for letting me know about Stephenie Dray and Michelle Moran. I look forward to reading both.

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

Looking forward to Dray's guest post!

Daphne said...

I"m looking forward to reading this one!!

Beth F said...

I'm going to have to add this to my list. I was never that interested in Cleopatra's daughter until I read Schiff's Cleopatra and realized she was the only one of her offspring that likely made it to adulthood.

Sheila Deeth said...

It's going on my to-read list.

diaryofaneccentric said...

I'm so glad to hear you liked this book, as I'll be reading it soon. I accepted a review copy simply because I was curious how it would compare to Michelle Moran's novel, which I loved.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I'm just about finished with Stacy Schiff's biography, CLEOPATRA. This has really piqued my curiosity, and I'll look for historical fiction like LILY OF THE NILE (I haven't read Michelle Moran's book, either)

Heather J. said...

I really liked this one too. I thought I might not, since I'd enjoyed Moran's book, but Dray's characters and story were great as well!