Song of the Nile by Stephanie Dray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Anytime you have a Caesar in the picture, you know it's going to be epic. I came into this reading, not having read the first in the series (I was fortunate enough to win this copy in a Goodreads giveaway), even so, I didn't feel that I'd missed anything. Perhaps this is because one of my favorite periods of time is Ancient Rome & Egypt, so I didn't feel like I was walking in on complete strangers.
Selene is obsessively & singularly focused on the resumption of the rule of Egypt to her family with herself at the helm. When we come into the story, she's being married off to Juba of Mauritania & also has the fates of her brothers to be concerned about. And then there's the creepy matter of the ever dangerous Augustus. I think it's safe to say that other women have had better wedding days. Honestly, & I'm not giving anything away here, considering where this story goes, this may actually have been one of Selene's better days. The author did a very good job of giving a sense of place & when things turned toward harrowing, I honestly felt unnerved. I stressed about Selene a lot & that's a good thing. She has to make some unenviable decisions & sometimes I found that I was annoyed with her because I wanted to her decide differently. I wanted her to give up her quest for Egypt more than once (Helios, dude I'm on your side!) & clearly Selene had more fortitude for the journey that I could conjure. I would have been her weary companion hedging & wondering if each step would be the one to finally hasten us to our end.
As one who reads a fair bit of historical fiction, I was not expecting a happy ending or nice neat currently palatable situations & found this to be deeply satisfying. I very much liked the magical bits with Selene (& Helios). Also, I enjoyed her reverence for her mother & father because it so drove her. I quite liked Julia & must admit I often felt a bit badly for Juba. By the end, I can't say that I was happy but I was satisfied with where Selene was in herself. She realized the toll her obsession had taken & that she was as much a spinner of the web as she was a prisoner. She is of course, still at the whim & mercy of Augustus but she did see that she can choose joy, happiness & freedom in the interim. It is a victory in and of itself.
I quite enjoyed this & am inclined to go back & read the first book. I'm glad to have found another writer of historical fiction to add to my "must reads".
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