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Cleopatra's Daughter    by Michelle Moran order for
Cleopatra's Daughter
by Michelle Moran
Order:  USA  Can
Crown, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Alexander and Selene, twin children of Kleopatra and Marc Antony, are taken to Rome by Octavian Caesar in 29 BC, after their mother's suicide, to participate in his Triumph - their small brother Ptolemy dies during the voyage. Michelle Moran, author of Nefertiti and The Heretic Queen, tells the story of Kleopatra's sole surviving offspring from Selene's viewpoint, and explains its historical basis in a fascinating Afterword.

In Egypt, Octavian is accompanied by his trusted general Agrippa and his aide, Prince Juba (son of the defeated King of Numibia) who was raised by Caesar and his sister. Juba, a student of history, warns Selene that 'the walls in Rome have ears, Princess', and watches over her. He encourages her to make herself useful to Octavian, who is impressed by her talent for drawing. In Rome, the eleven year-old twins are taken into the household of Caesar's sister Octavia, and educated alongside her children. They become close to her son (Octavian's heir) Marcellus and to Octavian's daughter Julia, and do their best to avoid the attention of Octavian's poisonous wife Livia.

There is regular unrest and rioting amongst Rome's slaves (who form a third of the city's population), and a literate, highly placed traitor, the Red Eagle, regularly posts protests against slavery - and against legal abuses -around Rome. Rather like the Scarlet Pimpernel, he's sought everywhere by the authorities, but never found, even though suspicion of his identity rises even as high as Octavia's household. Compassionate Octavia helps Selene to receive training from architect Vitruvius, and she forms a plan to design and build a shelter for abandoned foundlings, though she always longs to return to Egypt and fears for her own and her brother's future in Rome.

Moran's novel makes readers feel like they're living in Rome - and adjusting to its differences - along with Selene as she comes of age, discovers her life's work, and falls in love with someone she has long seen as an enemy. This outstanding historical takes a hard look at the evils of slavery and the pragmatics of power, while presenting a sympathetic heroine and the romantic interest that she deserves - and finally giving her an opportunity to 'rebuild Alexandria'. Don't miss Cleopatra's Daughter.

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