Ames’ review of Lily Of the Nile by Stephanie Dray.
With her parents dead, the daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony is left at the mercy of her Roman captors. Heir to one empire and prisoner of another, it falls to Princess Selene to save her brothers and reclaim what is rightfully hers...
In the aftermath of Alexandria’s tragic fall, Princess Selene is taken from Egypt, the only home she’s ever known. Along with her two surviving brothers, she’s put on display as a war trophy in Rome. Selene’s captors mock her royalty and drag her through the streets in chains, but on the brink of death, the children are spared as a favor to the emperor’s sister, who takes them to live as hostages in the so-called lamentable embassy of royal orphans…
Now trapped in a Roman court of intrigue that reviles her heritage and suspects her faith, Selene can’t hide the hieroglyphics that carve themselves into her flesh. Nor can she stop the emperor from using her for his own political ends. But faced with a new and ruthless Caesar who is obsessed with having a Cleopatra of his very own, Selene is determined honor her mother’s lost legacy. The magic of Egypt and Isis remain within her. But can she succeed where her mother failed? And what will it cost her in a political game where the only rule is win or die?
I have always had a fascination with ancient Egypt and although LotN takes places in Rome, I was still engrossed in the story. Selene, as well her her two brothers, has been captured by the Romans after they defeated her parents in Egypt. They are taken to Rome, proudly displayed as captives and then taken to the Caesar’s own home to be raised, with other children he has captured in various wars. It is very hard for Selene and her twin, Helios, to come to terms with their ‘captivity.’ Her mother, Cleopatra, is reviled by the Romans. Although Selene and Helios are half Roman (by way of their father Marc Antony), they are still their mother’s children and Egyptian through and through. Their younger brother, Philadelphus, is young enough to blend seamlessly with their new Roman ‘family.’ This family is comprised of Caesar Octavian, his wife, his sister and their various children, as well as other captured royal children.
Another facet of their captivity was the restriction on their religion. They could not practice – the Romans saw it as witchcraft and were extremely suspicious of any displays by the Goddess Isis. Selene struggles with her religion throughout the book and loses herself in the process. Which is Caesar’s plan. He has political aspirations for all his children and has an eye on the future, thinking of alliances he can make.
I really enjoyed Lily of the Nile. It revolves around Selene and the growing up she has to do, in a foreign country, with a foreign religion and foreign ways. Her and her brothers learn these new ways quick enough but they are the children of a Queen and their pride is very strong. Selene learns how to bend (but never break) and she is like the Caesar, trying to think ahead. When she sees an opportunity, she takes it. Her brother doesn’t bend so much and the Caesar does try to break him – which is a critical point in Selene’s story.
There was a lot of emphasis on the relationships between everyone – Octavian’s sister was actually Marc Antony’s first wife, someone Marc Antony put aside to be with Cleopatra. And she is now raising her husband’s children. Selene has an uneasy relationship with Octavian. He hated her mother but was also fascinated by her, and he would like more than anything to have his own Cleopatra to control. Selene knows this and uses it to her advantage, lulling Octavian into a false sense of security.
I know I’m making a muddle of this review but there was so much going on with this book. Politics, intrigue, Goddesses, betrayals…it’s all there. And right in the center of it all is Selene, a young woman who would be Queen.
I really enjoyed Lily of the Nile and look forward to reading the sequel, Song of the Nile. 4 out of 5.
This book is available from Berkley. You can buy it here or here in e-format.
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