Published: October 6, 2015
Genre: historical fiction > Egypt
Source: ARC from publisher
I have a desperate love affair with Ancient Egyptian historical fiction. Cleopatra and King Tut are (arguably) the more famous Pharaohs of Egypt, and Cleopatra especially is a bit fetishized by Western culture. This book is not about Cleopatra, and Cleopatra herself appears in it very little, mostly in memories. Cleopatra’s Shadows is told in alternating chapters by Arsinoe IV and Berenice IV, Cleopatra’s “shadows”, or sisters. If you ask me, Arsinoe’s and Berenice’s tales are far more interesting than that of Cleopatra; that might be because we’re a bit oversaturated with them. Both are incredibly strong, powerful women in their own right, well-rounded and flawed characters. They breathe on the page. I may have cried a little when Berenice was beheaded – and if you’re upset that I spoiled that, I’ll remind you that Berenice IV died two thousand years ago, and that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father.
At times the book seemed like it was trying a bit too hard to be lyrical and wax poetic, but don’t get me wrong, this novel is beautifully written. And, from my precious little factual knowledge and hours on Wikipedia, it seems to be relatively historically accurate. I’m sure there’s gap-filling and poetic license, but it’s a hell of a lot more accurate than Cleo was. As tired as I am of stories forced into being a series, I would do unspeakable things for Emily Holleman to continue Arsinoe’s tale – and according to the author, there is in fact more Arsinoe to come in 2017!
It isn’t often that I’m so blown away by a story that I actually stay up past my bedtime to try and finish it. I was thoroughly impressed. It’s definitely a solid four-and-a-half stars, the half-star knocked off for a horse “whinnying in appreciation” at one point, which is not a thing that happens. Thanks, Hollywood.
Disclaimer: I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way influenced my opinion of this book.