Graham retells the story of Cleopatra though the viewpoint of her handmaid Charmian. While more historical fiction, this book does get put into the fantasy character not only because of the use of gods as characters, but also, most likely, because of the hints at the past life/reincarnation.
The reincarnation idea in this book is one that I am not thrilled with – this is not Graham’s fault, it is more my personal taste in reading material.
That aside this is actually pretty good historical fiction about Cleopatra. While there is enough romance to satisfy those that crave it, the shining part of the book is the friendship between the three women – Cleopatra, Iras, and Charmian. It is true that Cleopatra is a bit more distance than the other two women, but considering her figure in history, this is hardly surprising and works in favor of the book.
What I do wonder, however, and this is more of a general comment than singling out Graham in particular, is why Charmian always gets the attention and not Iras? Is this tied to the idea of Iras as the darker skinned handmaiden, because we know less about her, or because the Cleopatra movie with Liz Taylor set the tone? I find it curious.
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley. (It is a read now option). I couldn't finish this because Cleo's voice kept grating on me.
Coats gets credit for using Cleopatra’s relationship or belief in Isis as well as for looking at the question of her mother. There is enough reference in the book to give credence to the belief that Coats knows her history.
However, writing Cleo using the voice of a modern teen really doesn’t work. Despite Cleo’s claims of not being a spoiled brat, this is exactly what she sounds like. Furthermore, there is no sense of place. It really could be the school across the street instead of Ancient Egypt. Furthermore, Cleo is far too modern in her language. She forgets about her mother too quickly. She also is the one everyone hates and wants. True, most the above is a given in much YA (or New Adult) work today, but if you are writing about the great Cleopatra, you don’t really have to resort to it.