Release Date: June 7, 2011
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
It is the first century B.C. Cleopatra, the third of the pharaoh's six children, is the one that her father has chosen to be the next queen of Egypt. But when King Ptolemy is forced into exile, Cleopatra is left alone to fend for herself in a palace rife with intrigue and murder. Smart, courageous, ambitious and sensuously beautiful, she possesses the charm to cause two of history's most famous leaders to fall in love with her. But as her cruel sisters plot to steal the throne, Cleopatra realizes there is only one person on whom she can rely--herself.
Cleopatra Confesses comes so close to being a great book. The writing is detailed, but not at all dense, and flows at a level that is both accessible and entertaining. There is a ton of information here (and it's pretty accurate), so readers looking for a crash course in Cleopatra's history would do well to pick up this book. Short chapters and the simplistic writing make this an extremely fast read.
Cleopatra's famed confidence and shrewd intellect shine clearly through the first-person narration. Carolyn Meyer does a great job of crafting a character for whom modern readers can feel sympathetic. Though this isn't a diary-format book, it almost feels like one. Much of the story is told through Cleopatra's observations and there is very little dialogue. The other characters in Cleopatra's life are not as vividly drawn as she is, but their roles are clearly presented.
To me, the writing style was less like a novel and a lot more like reading a well-presented Wikipedia article with lots of information and a little bit of personality from the narrator to make it less dry. I didn't mind this feel at all. I'm the type of reader who always wants to read non-fiction, but I never actually do because my novels look way more interesting. Cleopatra Confesses was the perfect balance. It almost felt like reading non-fiction but it was way more entertaining. I loved it! It was like eating diet food that doesn't taste like diet food. Based on all of this I would have happily given this book a 4 star rating.
But there's a but...
If you don't know anything AT ALL about Cleopatra, what I'm going to say next would probably be spoilery for you. Just warning you.
The reason I have to deduct stars is not because of what was written, but because of what wasn't written. Everything was going great, but around page 200 I started to get a little nervous. Too much still had to happen, but there weren't enough pages. At page 250, I started to wonder if this was only part one of a series (it's not. This is a standalone). By the time I had finished the epilogue I was super disappointed.
The story goes into great detail about Cleopatra's life up until she rolls out of the carpet and meets Julius Caesar for the first time. And then the book ends! Ok, I'm not saying the stuff before this part isn't important, because it totally is and Carolyn Meyer did a fantastic job recounting those events, but the meat and potatoes of Cleopatra's history is her time as Queen! Her epic loves, the way she managed Egypt--this is an essential part of any book recounting Cleopatra's life...and it's all completely cut out!
As soon as Cleopatra meets Caesar the book pretty much ends. There are a few chapters (remember, chapters are very short) and the epilogue briefly recounts that Caesar died and she had a relationship with Marc Antony and then he fought with Octavian. Cleopatra then opens a basket filled with vipers and Ta Da! THE END. All of that is summed up in the tiny epilogue.
I have no idea what the author or publishers were possibly thinking by ending the book like this. This book would have been fantastic if Carolyn Meyer had given the second half of Cleopatra's life the attention she had given to the first half of her life. I would have loved it and passed it out to my upper-MG (there's brief mentions of sex) and YA readers. I wouldn't have hesitated to buy a copy for my library and myself. Maybe the publishers were afraid of scaring away readers with a high page count (probably would have been in the 400-500s!)? I get that. I would have been scared away. They should have broken the book up into two volumes then. That would have been a fine solution and I totally would have gone for that. But what they did? Terrible.
I'm so conflicted with this review. What I read was great, but what wasn't written is just not acceptable in a book about Cleopatra (even the blurb talks about her two lovers!). I do recommend the book, but...just know you're not getting the full story at all. If you want to read an excellent book about Cleopatra, then I highly, highly recommend Martha Rofheart's book The Alexandrian (an adult book, though probably fine for YAs, and totally readable. I LOVE her Cleopatra. Like, BFF crying at the end because I don't want her to die kind of love. Ignore the ugly cover).
Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key
Do you have any questions about Cleopatra Confesses that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!
Feel free to ask in the comments!
This review is posted as part of Simon & Schuster Month hosted by Cialina at Muggle-Born.net!