Song of the Nile (Cleopatra's Daughter, Book #2)
by Stephanie Dray
Release Date: October 4th, 2011
2011 Berkley Trade (416 Pages)
E-book Edition; 391 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review Copy from Author
4.5 / 5 Stars
Sorceress. Seductress. Schemer. Cleopatra’s daughter has become the emperor’s most unlikely apprentice and the one woman who can destroy his empire…
Having survived her perilous childhood as a royal captive of Rome, Selene pledged her loyalty to Augustus and swore she would become his very own Cleopatra. Now the young queen faces an uncertain destiny in a foreign land.
Forced to marry a man of the emperor’s choosing, Selene will not allow her new husband to rule in her name. She quickly establishes herself as a capable leader in her own right and as a religious icon. Beginning the hard work of building a new nation, she wins the love of her new subjects and makes herself vital to Rome by bringing forth bountiful harvests.
But it’s the magic of Isis flowing through her veins that makes her indispensable to the emperor. Against a backdrop of imperial politics and religious persecution, Cleopatra’s daughter beguiles her way to the very precipice of power. She has never forgotten her birthright, but will the price of her mother’s throne be more than she’s willing to pay?
Song of the Nile was a fitting sequel to Lily of the Nile and I enjoyed it very much. In fact, I actually thought it was better than the first book as it seemed to have that grit and edge to it that was not really present in the first one. Song of the Nile continues to story of Selene, Cleopatra's daughter, as she marries Juba and settles in Mauritania as Queen and her struggles as she attempts to regain the throne of Egypt; subtle manoeuvers between herself and her husband and his Roman advisers who refuse to look upon her as anything but a young girl, earning the trust of the Berber people, looking for her lost twin, dealing with Rome and its demands, and learning that everything she does has a consequence.
One of the things I've always admired about these novels is the lushness of the writing and the descriptive scenes of the climate, including the political climate, of the time. Amongst the beautifully described scenes, I could always picture the underlying tensions amongst the characters and I found this rather intriguing, how the author was able to weave the political and social tensions within the descriptions. It really gave everything that extra-something that lifted these scenes into something else so for example, when Solene was raped, I could feel her horror and her humiliation so clearly and subtly as the story was woven around the setting. The rape itself wasn't described in detail per se, but it was the descriptions of Selene's horror amongst the setting in which she was in that really gave it its power and left the reader in shock. And this was done more than once throughout the novel.
As for Selene herself, I wasn't always impressed with her actions and her deeds and found her rather careless at times. She seemed to be rather self-centered and focused only on regaining the throne of Egypt, and some of her actions were hurtful and disdainful to others. There were times when I could have honestly shaken her, but then I wondered what I would have done in her situation if I had been her, surrounded by those whom I counted as enemy and I wasn't so sure if I would have acted differently. I don't think I would have been so oppositional all of the time however, and maybe I would have listened a bit better to those around me. I just found her obstinacy somewhat cloying for someone raised in the manner that she was, even if she was somewhat spoiled and jaded, and could not believe that she would not have learned how to get what she wants without arguing all of the time.
I really enjoyed the plot to this novel as I adore this time period. While some of the concepts tended to stray into the fantastical, take Selene's further interest and development into the mysteries of Isis for example, I focused more on the political nature of the novel rather than the fantasy. I liked reading about the interplay between Juba and Selene and how they tried to resolve the many issues that faced them, especially with their differing backgrounds, and I liked learning more about the time period in general. The plot moved fairly quickly, and even with many sidelines, it was not overly confusing and stayed pretty focused on the main concepts. And while I wondered whether things were going to slip away from the author towards the middle of the novel, everything came together nicely towards the end and I was left feeling very satisfied with the ending, although I am now eagerly waiting for the next book in this series to find out what happens.
Song of the Nile is a more than worthy sequel to Lily of the Nile. Well-researched and beautifully written, Ms. Dray combines suspense, political intrigue, romance, and history into a well-crafted novel that I enjoyed very much. While I wasn't as crazy about Selene in this novel, the end did make up for a lot of things and I really found the other characters fascinating and intriguing. I highly recommend this novel and am definitely looking forward to the next installment of this series when it is released.