This novel tells the story of Kleopatra Selene, the daughter of Kleopatra and Mark Antony (for reasons not clear to me, the author spells Kleopatra’s name with a K in the book but with a C in the title — I suspect she thinks K is more authentic, but her publishers thought the C would be more recognizable). Selene, her twin brother Alexander Helios, and their younger brother Ptolemy, are taken to Rome to be displayed in Octavius Caesar’s triumph after their parents commit suicide. With the triumph over, they are raised by Octavian’s sister Octavia, in her large Roman-Brady-Bunch sort of household. Barely twelve years old at the time of her capture, Selene waits to see what her future will hold in an empire ruled by the man who defeated her parents.
History tells us a little about the adult life of Selene, which gives Moran a framework upon which to hang her story. Nothing is known for certain about the fates of her two brothers (her half-brother, Caesarion, was killed by Octavian — at least, most people believe he was, unless you’ve watched Rome!!) This allows Moran to invent an early shipboard death en route to Rome for little Ptolemy. As for Alexander — well, she fills in the blanks in his fate too, but that’s a crucial plot point so I’ll leave it for the reader to discover.
Selene comes across as an engaging, precocious, believable character, and Moran has created not only a vivid picture of Rome in the early days of Octavian/Augustus, but also of the circle of noble teenagers in which Selene finds herself — including not just the Egyptian twins but also Octavian’s daughter Julia, Octavia’s son Marcellus, and Octavian’s stepson Tiberius. It’s a world and a cast of characters rich in possibilities, and Moran does a good job with the story, though she takes some liberties with which purists might quibble. Very readable, and a good job of filling in the gaps in the life of a little-known historical character.