This account of Cleopatra's daughter was laughable. I have had a fascination with Cleopatra, Egypt and Rome since I was a child so I have read too many things to count about these topics. But while not all books on the topic are well written or entertaining, Lily of the Nile was probably the worst I've read to date. I did not realize how deeply entwined "magic" would be in this telling and had I known I would have wisely avoided the tale. Dray mixes minimal historical fact with major fantasy elements that led to much eye-rolling and the aforementioned laughability. I love fantasy elements but they do not belong in a HF novel about someone such as Cleopatra or her daughter.
Included in my problem about the magical element is the choice to call individuals magicians and such things as this. Not including Egyptian terms when English simply is not exact enough to replace it was a poor choice. Calling the tutor a magician and other such instances was very distracting from the story. The fantasy elements included, alluding to Cleopatra performing magical acts (what crap) and then Selene seeing hieroglyphics appearing on her arms sending her messages? Really? I would never be able to roll my eyes enough on this one- laughable.
The story, regardless of the fantasy element which was much too potent, did not include much actual historical fact and the entire story left you feeling like these individuals never existed. On top of that, Selene was not a supportable main character and I did not care for her one iota. The rest of the characters were flat and lifeless.
Allusions to Christianity that continued to be made throughout Lily of the Nile I found very disturbing and unnecessary. The author's note included in the book made it clear to me why such images were invoked and made me all the more annoyed. The author alludes to "religious awakenings" and how Selene supposedly helped to pave the way for spirituality/religion as it is today and how without her personal spirituality may never have "taken hold". Wow. Just WOW. There is so little known about Cleopatra Selene that to blame religion as it is seen/performed today on her is ridiculous. Christianity may have spread during her lifetime but to connect her to it like this is fantasy
. Dray stated in the Author’s Note: “If we accept Matthew’s Massacre of the Innocents as valid gospel, we must acknowledge that Selene’s life intersected with important people [involved in Christianity].” Well how about the fact that this story is thought to be FALSE? So no, “we” as in I do not accept such things. Then Dray states that Christianity shares many of the same symbols and ideals of Isis worship--that is not a coincidence, Christians chose to use these symbols and ideals hundreds upon hundreds of years after Isis worship came into the world, as they did with the pagan religions. Note to self: read Author’s Notes before buying book.
Michelle Moran's Cleopatra's Daughter is a well-written historically based account with believable characters that you could actually come to care about. I would definitely recommend that book to anyone interested in Cleopatra Selene's story.