Monday, January 31, 2011

Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

Lily of the Nile
Title:  Lily of the Nile
Author:  Stephanie Dray
Publisher:  Berkley Books
Publication Date:  January 2011
Format:  Paperback, 368 pages
Age Group:  Adult
Series:  Cleopatra's Daughter (Book 1)

After the fall of Alexandria to Rome and the death of her parents, Mark Antony and Cleopatra, Princess Selene and her brothers are taken to Rome.  Marched in the streets as prisoners of war, their lives are spared and they are taken in to the emperor's household.  Now Selene must learn to survive in a world where treachery could be around every corner.  The legacy of Cleopatra and the religion of Isis rest in the hands of one young girl who only lives at the emperor's whim.  Will Selene learn to manipulate the emperor even as he uses her for his own political gain?

Lily of the Nile is a wonderful book of historical fiction.  Although I enjoy historical fiction a great deal, it has been quite a long time since I've actually read any.  Stephanie Dray has reminded me why I count this as one of my preferred genres.  Dray crafts the political and spiritual focus of the time around one young girl who is powerful, vulnerable, scared, and alone.  Cleopatra Selene understands and feels the weight of Egypt and the religion of Isis as she holds it in her heart yet she also keenly feels the death of her parents and brothers.  She can speak like a queen in one moment and in the next her emotions overwhelm her.  Her brothers and the other members of her new household are very real, emotional characters as well.  Each struggles at times to put on their stoic face for the public and to do their duty for Rome and the emperor, even when their hearts desire other things.

The religion of Isis is strongly featured in the book as it is one of the main components of Cleopatra Selene's legacy.  She protects the temples and followers of Isis from the emperor even when it means turning away from her family to do his bidding.  Magic is a large part of this faith and it manifests itself with bleeding hieroglyphs carved into Selene's skin carrying messages for the emperor.  Dray presents this magic in a very realistic manner both in its occurrence and the fear that it creates.

Stephanie Dray gives the reader the entire package in this book:  realistic historical setting, great characters, political ambition, spiritual magic, and wonderful writing.  My only fear when getting close to the end was that it wasn't going to be enough.  I didn't see how the story could possibly be wrapped up in the few remaining pages.  While it turned out that the book did end in a wonderful spot in the story of Cleopatra Selene, I was very happy to discover that Dray is writing more of her story.  According to Dray's website, Lily of the Nile is only the first book in a trilogy.  I believe Song of the Nile is scheduled to come out some time this fall.

Thank you so much to j squared pr who sent me a copy of Lily of the Nile in return for my honest review.

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