Cleopatra VIII Selene is the only daughter of Cleopatra VII, the woman who many see as one of Egypt’s greatest rulers and a tragic victim of political intrigue. Shamed at the conquering of their beloved homeland, Cleopatra VII and her husband Marcus Antonius take their lives, leaving three children behind. Selene, her twin brother Alexandros, and her younger brother Ptolemy “Ptolly” Philadelphos are then sent on a ship to Rome to live out the rest of their days in the palace of Octavianus, the very man who ripped Egypt from them.
Dissatisfied with her current life, Selene begins formulating a plan to return to Egypt and claim what she sees as her rightful throne. Stealing a kingdom is time consuming; Selene is kept busy gathering allies and friends to aid her, but not too busy to fall for one young man… while romancing another.
Torn between two men, two outlooks on life, and two paths to the power she needs to take back her true love, Egypt, Selene makes her way through the cold prison that envelopes her life, vying to make it back to the warm sands of her homeland.
Selene herself makes for an interesting character. While many historical fiction novels that I’ve read are written as journal entries, Cleopatra’s Moon is not. This is a definite improvement on the flow of the novel, especially when chapters skip months or even years of Selene’s life.
Often adamant about what she sees as an eventual and inevitable return to the throne, Selene’s character can be a bit grating at times due to her naïveté. However, as Selene ages throughout the course of the book, the reader can definitely see how she moves from a young palace child to a desperate but worldly young woman, trying to emulate her mother. Selene’s mission comes to a head the end of the book, when Selene finally realizes what it is that she wants out of life, even when it appears as though she has nothing left to live for.
The detailed character list at the beginning, along with the “facts within the fiction” section at the end show that Shecter isn’t kidding around with this book. Having written books on the ancient world before, she is no stranger to the intense research that is needed to develop the complex political and social world featured in Cleopatra’s Moon.
The ending to Cleopatra’s Moon left me happier and more satisfied than most endings in YA fiction. Everything wraps up nicely in a neat little package, and I truly believe that it is the best ending that Selene could have. Shecter is also kind enough to add an author’s note immediately following the ending, letting us know what happens beyond the last page of the novel.
Fascinating, exciting, and heart breaking all at once, Cleopatra’s Moon paints a picture of a young woman history has ignored in favor of her mother. But Selene deserves her own story, and Shecter tells it expertly.
Emily Weaver enjoys museum galleries, wading in streams, and the more-than-occasional episode of anime. She also hopes to travel the world some day.