Top critical review
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Good history but could be better
on January 6, 2005
Kleopatra as a clever und highly intelligent Queen, who wanted to keep her country independent from the Roman Empire. The prose is beautiful and the well known story convincingly told. The historical trivia is entertaining and keeps to the well accepted facts. For the history and the research she deserves 5 stars.
However, from the point of a reader of historic novels, I feel somewhat disappointed. The reason I bought this book (and the sequel) was not to get a precise biography of the late Roman Republic. For this you might as well read good biographies, like that by Michael Grant. A historical novel should contain a bit more fiction, a bit more speculation, and a bit of controversy, which may not be approved by the history professor next door, but fits into the storyline or is expected by the reader. Somehow I got bored in the middle of the sequel, since I knew the history well and was not offered something "new" to keep me hooked. Minus 1 star.
Another point irritated me. You notice through most parts of the book, that it is written by a female American writer. The book is a women's book for a female audience. In both volumes you get just about a hint of sexuality at the beginning as a teaser, the violence is modest, the characters sometimes very politically correct. I accept the author's intention to describe Kleopatra in a different way than the wanton seducer of all men around her. This is historically correct and not my point. But Kleopatra was not a woman following Christian moral in a Hellenistic time half a century before the birth of Christ. For a book dealing with a time period of war, conquest, male dominance and brutality the setting is simply to sterile and clean to be convincing. And Kleopatra could be transferred directly to modern day America, where she could apply for an office in your local church or charity. I got the impression the author (or the publisher) did not want to alienate mainstream female book club members, therefore Kleopatra was described as any woman's best girl friend. I understand that, but it costs another star from a male reader.