“To Isis worshippers, Princess Selene and her twin brother Helios embody the divine celestial pair who will bring about a Golden Age. But when Selene’s parents are vanquished by Rome, her auspicious birth becomes a curse. Trapped in an empire that reviles her heritage and suspects her faith, the young messianic princess struggles for survival in a Roman court of intrigue. She can’t hide the hieroglyphics that carve themselves into her hands, nor can she stop the emperor from using her powers for his own ends. But faced with a new and ruthless Caesar who is obsessed with having a Cleopatra of his very own, Selene is determined to resurrect her mother’s dreams. 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?” — via GoodReads
My rating: 6/10
What intrigued me about this novel was that it was not only historical fiction, but that it was fantasy as well. While other novels about Cleopatra do mention magic, it is never an underlying theme, and the heroine is never a source of magic herself. You would think that, with this being the primary difference between Lily of the Nile and other novels about Cleopatra Selene, the use of magic would be more present, but its use is rather sporadic. Since this is the first of a trilogy, I would imagine Dray has Selene develop control over her powers in the succeeding novels, but I was a bit disappointed that she only used them a handful of times without even meaning to.
One of my major issues with Lily of the Nile was Dray’s portrayal of the relationship between Selene and Juba. In Cleopatra’s Daughter, Selene is oblivious to Juba’s affections until the end of the book, but in this novel, Selene is not only aware of them, but returns them as well. Dray’s intention for this novel is to empower young women, but what kind of message is she sending by turning such a powerful woman into a simpering, boy crazy teenager?
Dray, unlike Moran, chose to keep Selene’s younger brother Ptolemy (called Philadelphus in the novel) alive, even though most sources believe he died before the children made it to Rome. In the context of the novel, it makes sense, but it’s also such a minor part of the greater plot that his presence wouldn’t have been missed had she chosen to follow the general consensus.
Overall, it is probably best that Lily of the Nile is part of a trilogy, since Selene doesn’t start to come into her own until the end. However, of the two authors, Dray and Moran, I believe Moran wrote a far more superior novel. I do give Dray credit for taking a different approach than many other authors, and I do look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy (although the brief reviews I’ve read of Song of the Nile, the second novel, were less than flattering.)