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on August 2, 2001
The young Cleopatra shows her intelligence at an early age in spite of growing up in the decadent court of her pitiful father Ptolemy. Her half-brother hates her out of jealousy for her Machiavellian skills (is that an anachronism?) and with the help of her lover Archimedes she raises an army to help her attain the throne she desires. However, Kleopatra's obvious intelligence and abilities fail to keep her from exile as the Romans rule the world, but she plans to conquer Julius Caesar (see the next volume).
This is an incredible fictional biography that contains a fantastic look at Ancient Egypt and Rome using historical tidbits to tell the story of Cleopatra, the early years. The novel turns a legend into a person while concentrating on the heroine's adventures, political machinations, and the classical Greek culture that she wants to emulate. Fans of Ancient historical tales and Cleopatra will want to read this book, the upcoming sequel (the Caesar-Anthony years of her life) and Colin Falconer's WHEN WE WERE GODS as a companion piece. Ms. Essex capitalizes the H in historical as she provides a rich textured, fast-paced tale that should lead to the latest Egyptology boom.

Harriet Klausner
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on July 31, 2001
The spirit and essence of Kleopatra is alive and well. Thanks to historian/fiction writer Karen Essex, Kleopatra is no longer the "Cover girl" of the ancient world. Essex's deep respect for the Egyptian Queen is apparent from the first page as the reader is gently coaxed into discarding preconceived images of a mythical temptress/ruler and joining Essex on a journey to discover the woman in her entirety.
Instead of a legendary enchantress we meet the child Kleopatra who speaks numerous languages and dialects by the age of ten. We empathize with the woman-child who understand so much more than those around her and feel a twinge of pain at her impatience for her body to grow into her wisdom. Essex expertly excavates the depth of Kleopatra and satisfies the longing of all woman--to be seen completely. We are convinced. Kleopatra possessed the spirit of a ruler at birth.
Essex's vivid descriptions of Egypt are startling and her ability to illustrate the political atmosphere in gripping detail is enviable. There are some erotic scenes in which the author gently nudges us to remember ancient rites that are strangely familiar and yet unimaginable. Kleopatra is grounded in factual history and painted with delicate fictional strokes that breathe life into the woman, the myth and the Queen.
I recommend this book to anyone and everyone who has ever wondered who Kleopatra really was. The feminine icons of our time should hope that someone like Essex comes after them to tell their story. ... do yourself (and your viewers) a favor--put this book on your reading list!
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on August 12, 2001
Couldn't put this down. I hate to think how much research went into the writing of this book, but the good news is, the research doesn't "show" or get in the way of the story. Kleopatra is a fascinating character study of a very clever woman facing incredible odds. One of the few really gripping stories I've read in the past several years, I was hooked from the beginning. Karen Essex took me to a complex world that is not only totally real, but filled with fascinating people and events. I can't get the images of ancient Egypt out of my head, and when I wasn't reading, all I wanted to do was get back to the book.
Kleopatra is marvelous, a book I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone.
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on August 4, 2001
Karen Essex has accomplished no small feat with her historical novel "Kleopatra"; few writers possess the skill to take a history lesson and make it not only interesting but captivating. The manner in which she weaves fact and fiction is brilliant, presenting a richly told story that is never lacking in any aspect. The only disappointment was that it had to end. When can we expect the rest?
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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.
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on August 12, 2004
When I discovered the existence of this novel, I was enthusiastic and intrigued. Unfortunately, my hopes were more or less dashed as I trundled my way through the 382 pages. KLEOPATRA focuses on the famous queen's early years - a period of time of which we have no record - and the intrigues that haunted and led to the demise of any semblance of a family (something she may have compensated for in adulthood). What I liked: 1). The spelling of Kleopatra/ Cleopatra with a "K"- it really does emphasize that Hellenistic connection; 2) Kleopatra's strength of character- Essex's general characterization is appropriate and it's easy to see what Kleopatra will become.

Although the novel is a noble attempt by Karen Essex, it just didn't work for me. The character of Berenike as an Amazon seemed a bit far-fetched. And although I loved Kleopatra's love interest (I won't give away his name!), I felt it was a bit far-fetched as well, almost as if Essex was pressured into a love story from the publisher or something. Kleopatra's Dionysian rites were also a little hard to believe, as was Mohama. There were also scenes of random sex that were a bit... unnecessary. Overall, although Kleopatra was a strong, believable character, she was in the minority. The novel as a sort of back-story to the Queen of Egypt didn't work as it was weighed down by the elements of fiction! At least the sequel is better. For fiction that works, check out The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George.
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on August 12, 2001
This book was fantastic. I always thought I knew the story of Cleopatra, but now I've found out how really awesome she was. What a fun reading experience. I can't wait to see the movie I read that is being made from the book. Cleopatra rules!
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on August 27, 2001
A thoroughly enjoyable piece of historical fiction. The author has done an amazing amount of research. The story is full of political intrigue, history, details of the period and interesting character studies. I cannot wait for the next one.
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on August 26, 2001
A fast and provocative read, this well researched fictional journey into a past world not before seen from this vantage point. I look forward to its continuation in Volume II.
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on November 28, 2015
In the royal palace by the sea in the city of Alexandria, the queen of Egypt is dying. KLEOPATRA V, TRYPHAENA, has a fever of unknown origin and even the blind Armenian healer summoned by her husband, King PTOLEMY XII (called AULETES) has failed to offer relief. Three-year-old KLEOPATRA, her father’s favorite (he calls her his “small piece of joy”) waits with her older sister BERENIKE (8) and half-sister THEA (14) for news. Thea, daughter of Tryphaena and a Syrian prince, promises Berenike she will always look after her but has no such soft words for Kleopatra, whom she despises. When it’s clear that her mother will not recover, Thea seduces her step-father. Shortly after her mother’s death, Thea weds the King and tells Kleopatra she must call her “mother.” On the day of the wedding Kleopatra puts up such a fuss that Thea has her drugged with valerian. And that’s just the start of this juicy historical novel that offers us a very different view of Cleopatra than the one we usually see of a mature woman torn between two lovers.
This is more like an Egyptian GAME OF THRONES, with siblings turning against each other and fathers marrying daughters and intrigue and deceit around every corner. It’s all vastly entertaining and Kleopatra is a heroine we root for as she negotiates the pitfalls of court life and manages to stay alive. Sex. Politics. This book calls out for the miniseries treatment. It’s an extremely entertaining read with great characters, solid dialogue, and events that may be invented, but feel authentic.
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