Monday, December 12, 2016

Cleopatra Unconquered

The first in a series, Cleopatra Unconquered by Helen R. Davis is a treat for those fascinated by Egypt and the lost glories of antiquity. The last Queen and ruler of the Egypt of the Pharaohs, Cleopatra VII, known to posterity as a shrewd politician, met her demise through a fatal alliance with Marc Antony of Rome. They were crushed and defeated by Octavian, the future Caesar Augustus. History was set upon a different course after the battle of Actium, which led to Cleopatra's death by suicide, following Antony's own self-inflicted demise. People who admire Cleopatra as a great woman ruler usually lament her tragic end which was also the end of ancient Egypt. The author weaves the fruits of her careful research into a fascinating combination of both the historical fiction and fantasy genres. It gives readers a look into history as it was, as well as into what might have been.

Davis imagines what the world would have been like had there been a different outcome to the Battle of Actium, where Antony was defeated at sea by the forces of Octavian, the adopted son of the great Julius Caesar, former lover and husband of Cleopatra. What if Cleopatra and Antony had triumphed? What if Octavian had foundered in the depths of the sea? Only someone who knows the ins and outs of the actual history can tell us. The novel, written with simple and forthright prose, is full of marvelous insights into the personalities which shaped Cleopatra's world. On the fantasy level, we are occasionally given a glimpse of the "immortals", the goddesses of Egypt, Greece and Rome, Isis, Athena, and Venus, discussing Cleopatra as they watch her life unfold from their otherworldly dimension. Their discussions are humorous but also give background information about the various motivations of the historical characters.

Most compelling is the presentation of the fears, hopes and motivations of the young Cleopatra as she grows to womanhood in a treacherous court, where members of her own family are her worst enemies. The Ptolemaic dynasty, of Greek origins, ruled Egypt for three hundred years and were famous for both incest and murder. Alexander the Great had founded the magnificent city of Alexandria, the capital of the Ptolemies, and was buried there, although his tomb is now lost. Alexandria was renowned for its architectural achievements, especially for the great library. In a palace filled with excess and luxury, the young Cleopatra seeks learning, while struggling for her own survival. Of all of her siblings she proves to be the most clever and capable. Furthermore, she truly loves the traditional Egyptian culture, religion and language, striving to learn all she can about her people and their rich heritage. Among monarchs it cannot be doubted that she is one of most fascinating in world history. It is wonderful to read a book in which she is given another chance.

Here is a television interview with the award-winning author, Helen R. Davis.

(NOTE: This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for my honest opinion.)



Helen Davis said...

Thank you for this kind, thought felt review.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you for the honor!