By Maria Dahvana Headley
Publish Date: May 12, 2011
Genre: science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, literature
Length: 416 pages
Cleopatra, immortal. No, for real. I’m not just talking about being immortal as a legend, I’m talking living dead-ish.. but I’m NOT talking Anne Rice. The year is 30 BC and Cleopatra and her husband Marc Antony, poised to defend Alexandria after already having lost the battle at Actium, are desperately trying to keep Octavian Caesar and his legions at bay. As Cleopatra remains safe in her stronghold, a messenger informs her that her husband has just died by his own hand. Cleopatra is desperate to save her country and to resurrect her hubby, and she turns to the gods for help. Whoops.
She summons Sekhmet, Goddess of Death and Destruction, the bringer of the end of the world, and strikes a bargain. In exchange for Antony’s soul, Sekhmet demands Cleopatra. Cleo submits, and is possessed and transformed into an immortal vampire-thingy/shapeshifter, ferocious and seductive. With her newfound strength, Cleo hunts and pursues Octavian all the way to Rome, she journeys from the tombs of the pharaohs to the amphitheaters of imperial Rome and to the underworld. Octavian dons the name of Augustus and knows Cleo is at his heels as he makes his way to Rome. He surrounds himself with witches from Britain, Thessaly, and some of Egypt’s neighboring countries as his comrades suspect him of insanity.
What follows is heartbreak, triumphs, battles, and the stuff of legends and myths; the battle between man and beast will determine the fate of humankind.
Cleopatra was a woman of a different breed, mystical, harsh, and completely seductive. Headley does a wonderful job of re-spinning the tale of Cleo’s final days leading up to her suicide. I almost didn’t buy this book for fear that it would butcher my love of Egyptian and Roman history, but I’m glad I did. The characters are rich and vibrant, and Headley spins their fates together in a tapestry of terrible beauty. I could not put this book down. Included in this book is an Author’s Note that explains the differences between what is true to history versus the dramas she created. It is clear that she put much effort into researching the time, places, myths, and legends that went into this book.
Queen of Kings is the first of a to-be trilogy, and I am excited for the publishing of the books to follow.