Lily of the Nile
Author: Stephanie Dray
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Summary: After her parents' suicides, Cleopatra's daughter Selene is taken to Rome with her two brothers. There, she must master two things: the magic her mother gave her, and the dangerous political game the emperor plays.
Pros: Selene is a strong female protagonist, and Dray does a superb job of recreating early imperial Rome in all its splendor and scandal.
Cons: Occasionally it's a bit heavy on the "divine feminine."
Princess Selene has everything going for her: beauty, incredible wealth, and the future throne of Egypt. But when her mother, the fabled Cleopatra, commits suicide, Selene's world dies with her.
She is plucked from the marble halls of the palace of Alexandria and deposited in the confining rooms of a humble manor in Rome. Once the beloved children of a divine queen, she and her brothers are now hated orphans.
They are not completely powerless, however. Just before their mother died, she gave each of her three children a magical amulet. Selene soon learns that she is a vessel of the great goddess Isis, who carves bloody messages in hieroglyphs into her arms.
Will she embrace her heritage and sacred vocation? Selene wants to honor her mother and her beloved goddess, but patriarchal Rome is not a safe place for a magical girl who worships a goddess of love and justice.
Dray weaves history, fiction, and fantasy into a compelling tapestry. A few times the goddess allusions are a little jarring, such as when Selene's brother Philadelphus tells her, "Without Isis, people forget female divinity." Philadelphus sees the future, true, but this still seems like a curiously modern thing to say.
For the most part, though, Selene's devotion to Isis fits smoothly into her historical landscape. The Isis cult was extremely popular throughout the Mediterranean, and its values of peace, love, and justice paved the way for Christianity.
Fans of Selene will be happy to learn that Lily of the Nile is the first book in a trilogy about Cleopatra's daughter. The second book, Song of the Nile, will be published later this year.