Monday, December 30, 2013

Book Reivew: Daughters of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

#3 in the Cleopatra Selene series
Release Date: December 3, 2013
Publisher: Berkley Trade 
Pages: 576
Received: ARC from author
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

This is a review for the final book in a trilogy. There are NO spoilers, but if you're worried, you can read my reviews of the first two books instead: 


Cleopatra Selene and I have been on this journey together for a long time. I started reading her story when she was a child, and by the time Daughters of the Nile comes to an end she has grown into herself as a woman in her thirties.

I've laughed, cried, sympathized, swooned, and raged alongside her as she struggled to grow up under the expectations set by her famous parents (Cleopatra and Marc Antony) and the yoke of the conniving emperor Augustus.

Daughters of the Nile was a satisfying conclusion to Selene's story. Much of it felt like a wrapping up and winding down, and by the final third of the book I definitely felt like Stephanie Dray was gently prying my fingers away and letting me know it was time to let go. The last time I had felt such author awareness to my reader needs for growth and closure was when reading Harry Potter and the Dealthy Hallows, so, kudos and thank yous to Stephanie Dray.

While I feel like I emotionally came to a positive end, the journey there was mixed. I feel like the way things played out was the right and necessary way. The only way. And so I'm very satisfied.

But, I missed Selene's sparring with Augustus. This installment lacked the tense rage and battle sparks I felt when reading the first two books. Part of this is because Selene is growing, and while I miss those interactions, I feel their loss in this sense is a necessary and correct change for Selene's character and life.

Except, Augustus! If I have one complaint, it is that he became a shadow of himself. Stephanie Dray's Augustus in Lily of the Nile and Song of the Nile set the bar for me when it comes to historical interpretations of this man. He was a force to be reckoned with. Cold, calculating, wickedly intelligent and always scheming.

Not so in Daughters of the Nile. Here, he's diminished and changed to the point that he seems almost a parody of himself. His lust for Selene made sense at first, but devolved into deranged obsession I'm not sure sits well with me from both a characterization and historical standpoint.

Then there's the romance. Again, part of me is extremely satisfied with the way things played out. There were scenes of such tenderness and watching these two people grow, come together, falter, learn about one another and themselves, and come together again was everything I want out of a romance.

And part of me can't get over what he did in the previous books.

That Selene was equally conflicted made things better. Trying to take an objective view and see things from his perspective and development helped further, even if that's a really, really hard thing to do (especially since I've been experiencing all of this through Selene's eyes, and she is NOT an objective, forgiving kinda lady).

And that's part of the beauty of the book. It's hard because life is hard. No character is perfect, and none of the situations they find themselves in are perfect either. They make do the best they can, finding joy where and how they can. There were multiple scenes where tears were streaming uncontrollably down my face, both in sadness and joy.

Bottom line

I may have been disappointed with Augustus, but it wasn't a deal breaker. I may have wished some things were different, but the book would have been less had I gotten what I thought I wanted. Ultimately, I love what Stephanie Dray did with this story and that is why the series overall has secured itself a place on my Special Shelf. 

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Daughters of the Nile that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Looking for another book like this?
You might like:

 Click on the pictures to go to my reviews.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Books I Got

It's been established so clearly that I can't even lie about it: I have no self-control when it comes to books. I acquire them at a much faster rate than I can actually read and review them, but hopefully these posts will help those books get some exposure NOW instead of waiting until I actually manage to find time to, you know, read them.

This post is for some of the books I've gotten in the past LONG TIME or so.

For Review

Girl on the Golden Coin
by Marci Jefferson

I don't usually love Restoration England books, but this one takes a slightly different approach on the topic, so I'm curious. I've been trying to expand my historical fiction experiences, too. Plus, there's the pretty dress on the cover.

Requested and received via NetGalley.


Keeping the Castle
by Patrice Kindl

A comedy of manners? Yep, I'm up for that. It hits on a personal pet peeve of mine that some of the names are really obvious (Lord Boring?), but I'll try to get over it. Because, castles. And romance. And a comedy of manners.

I read Patrice Kindl's Goose Chase, and while I didn't love it, I did think it was a fun way to spend a few hours. I'm hoping Keeping the Castle proves at least as enjoyable.

All Our Yesterdays
by Cristin Terrill

Ok, so this was a total impulse buy. Impulse check out? I was at the library picking up a book for my husband and had ZERO intentions of getting anything for myself. Actually, I had mentally banned myself from getting anything because I already have a big review pile and other books that I need to be reading.

Obviously I have no will power, because I grabbed this book as soon as I saw it. I had read the first few chapters through NetGalley and loved them, but couldn't finish the book in time. I'm gun shy about time travel books, too. They can confuse me, but I've heard this one is done well, so here's hoping I love it!


Wolf Tower
by Tanith Lee

Tanith Lee is one of those authors I consider "classic fantasy authors I should have read" alongside people like Robin McKinley and Tamora Pierce. I had store credit to a used book store and saw this pretty hardcover containing the first three books in the Claidi Journals series. It was a no brainer.

But I don't like it. It's written in diary-style and I don't like that style. So, readers, please either tell me it's fantastic and I should stick it out (I've read about half of the first book) or I'm totally open to trades if you want my copy!

The Summoning
by Kelley Armstrong

I've had so many bad experiences with paranormal books lately that I'm not convinced I'm going to like this one. It was a quarter at my library's book sale though, so I couldn't pass it up. It also comes highly recommended by Ruby, so there's that, too.

The Chronicles of Chrestomanci
by Diana Wynne Jones

This is another Book I Should Have Read. At least I think I should have read it. It feels like one of those fantasy classics, and I'm trying to fill in the voids in my reading history so I can more assuredly call myself a Fantasy Fan.

Plus, I liked Howl's Moving Castle. And is there a talking cat? You can't go wrong with a talking cat (unless it's Alice in Wonderland, which I loathe. But that's the one exception).

What did you get this week? Are you interested in reading any of these books? What did you think of them if you've read them already?


Friday, December 20, 2013

Book Review: Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow

Release Date: October 29, 2013
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books 
Pages: 368
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

From the acclaimed author of PLAIN KATE, a new novel about what lurks in the shadows, and how to put it to rest...

In the world of SORROW'S KNOT, the dead do not rest easy. Every patch of shadow might be home to something hungry, something deadly. Most of the people of this world live on the sunlit, treeless prairies. But a few carve out an uneasy living in the forest towns, keeping the dead at bay with wards made from magically knotted cords. The women who tie these knots are called binders. And Otter's mother, Willow, is one of the greatest binders her people have ever known.

But Willow does not wish for her daughter to lead the lonely, heavy life of a binder, so she chooses another as her apprentice. Otter is devastated by this choice, and what's more, it leaves her untrained when the village falls under attack. In a moment of desperation, Otter casts her first ward, and the results are disastrous. But now Otter may be her people's only hope against the shadows that threaten them. Will the challenge be too great for her? Or will she find a way to put the dead to rest once and for all?


I adored Plain Kate, mostly because Erin Bow created a rich world with depth, culture, history, and texture, filled it with people (and one very important animal) who completely claimed my love, and then she spent the entire book ripping my heart out with the beautiful heart-smashing loveliness of her harsh, cruel world.

Plain Kate was the best kind of fairy tale. It was gorgeously written, but those pretty words breathed life into her characters, vitality into her world, and substance into her plot.

So, of course I set my bar for Sorrow's Knot pretty high, and, in some ways, it almost rose to the challenge. In others...well, Sorrow's Knot is no Plain Kate. 

The Yays

Sorrow's Knot has really, really pretty writing. I was totally drawn into the book in that life-sucking way that makes you neglect the things around you because "MY BOOK" *hand flap everything away*

The evocative, storytelling writing smothered me in that book fuzz that blocks out the world, but what kept me there was the mystery that I felt supernaturally compelled to unravel (sorry, I had to get at least one pun out of my system).

I love books with story mythology, and Sorrow's Knot is definitely a book that relies heavily on story mythology. The White Hand creatures were both creepy and tragic, and the final reveal surrounding them was devastating. I only wish this aspect had been delivered with fewer holes and loose strings.

And, the sobbing disappointment

I'm a concrete kind of person. I like artwork that painstakingly recreates reality. I'm not a fan of poetry unless it's the epic kind of poems where they're basically novels with weird line spacing. If a blurb says something like "profound metaphorical journey," I run the other way. I actually like long and clunky info-dumps.  

Sorrow's Knot makes sense in that dreamy profoundly half-logical way episodes like Buffy's dreamscape Restless or Frank Herbert's Dune series make sense. Everyone walks around sagely spouting off nonsense and half-sentences. Most things don't have a fully reasoned explanation and we're just supposed to accept them, because. But the characters say it all with a miasma of authoritative wisdom! So, it's all deep and stuff!

And, oh lord, Sorrow's Knot is pretty much one giant convoluted mess of double speak, vague metaphors, and fuzzy half-explanations. It's also set in a fictional Native American tribe of She-Ra Men Haters Club inductees, so with that double dose of cliche you know it's super extra profound.

And, I don't know, maybe I'm extra bleh about the whole thing because the Magical Indian and the Wise Woman tropes are particular Do Not Want points for me (I'd rather have female and Native American characters who are wise because they're actually wise and not because it's somehow an implicit character trait brought on by their race and sex), but after Plain Kate, I expected something more original from Erin Bow.

And, yes, I know a significant point of the story is actually going against the established and promoting growth to a less insular, rigid society, but that falls flat when the rigid world is the better developed, more memorable part of the story and the push for change is wrapped in convoluted, thin explanations.

The fact that the whole "We do what we do, because." traditional approach is challenged by "We shouldn't do what we do anymore. Just because it's bad and stuff. Yeah!" kinda undermines the whole story. It comes across more like teenage rebellion, ignorant of the whys behind the way things have developed (explanations never given, but unlikely not to exist), instead of a story of logical growth and development.

Also, spoiler if the problem was that they were binding too tightly, then why did they stop binding completely? Was there something inherently wrong with binding in general? If so, then why does the tightness matter? If not, then, again, why stop binding at all? Was there ever then a purpose to binding? And, if so, then why is that reason suddenly gone?

Plain Kate had me crying from the opening chapter (and don't even get me started on the double whammy scenes with Taggle), but Sorrow's Knot never once made me feel. The difference is that Plain Kate made me care about the characters because they had depth and personality. They were nuanced and alive.

Sorrow's Knot's characters were stereotypes. Really worn out stereotypes. Even worse, their characterizations relied almost completely on the stereotypes and never developed beyond them. One character is even switched out for another partway through the story, and it makes no difference because they're almost exactly the same.

They're also constantly dropping dead. Sorrow's Knot has a near-Shakespearean tragedy body count, and yet I couldn't muster up a single care.

Add in a dash of "inexplicable" and a heaping of "bleary sagacity" and not only were the characters thinly developed, but their actions and motivations didn't make a whole lot of sense.

Which brings me to the plot, which also didn't make a whole lot of sense. Now, when I was in the story, this didn't bother me as much. I was wrapped up in the mystery of the White Hand creatures and the lore and mythology of the world and trying to figure out how they all connected.

All with a nagging feeling that, "NO, THAT MAKES NO SENSE" mixed with "oh please don't let that actually be the explanation." Except it was. The big reveal was that awkward, obvious, and filled-with-holes explanation I was desperately hoping (from very early on in the story) it would not turn out to be.

Add in the rushed ending with its sloppy resolution, loose ends, and 11th hour (and totally unnecessary) romance, and I felt cast adrift without a paddle by the time I turned the final page. 

Bottom line

My initial feeling is that I liked this story a whole lot. There really is a lot of talent and potential in here, even if it never coalesces. And, I wonder, would I have liked it more if I hadn't read Plain Kate first? I'd say maybe yes, but then I remember all the logical inconsistencies and plot holes, so, maybe not.

But, Plain Kate was so much more, whereas Sorrow's Knot is so worn, and my crushing disappointment is near overwhelming. Both contain underlying messages of growing up, grief, and letting go, but one does it with subtle finesse and tenderness, expertly balancing the comfortingly familiar fairy tale frame with stunning originality. The other relies on stereotypes, cliches, and muddy allusions, none of which resonated with me.

This is a standalone, though there are possibilities for more.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Sorrow's Knot that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Series Review: Rebel Angels by Gilian Philip + Giveaway (US/CA)

#1 in the Rebel Angels series
Release Date: February 19, 2013
Publisher: Tor Books
Pages: 368
Received: Finished copy from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

#2 in the Rebel Angels series
Release Date: November 19, 2013
Publisher: Tor Books
Pages: 400
Received: Finished copy from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a review for the first two books in the series, and there are NO spoilers!


I can't really explain why I like these books, but I definitely do like them. Even though I should hate them.

They're filled with fairies. Really enigmatic, brutal, inhuman fairies. That I would normally hate, but I don't.

They do and say things and I have NO CLUE why or what they mean. Part of that is because they're fairies and I guess that goes with the territory. Part of it is their language, which is all Highlander and slangy. The rest is because I think the author has a whole lot of explaining left to do.

Some of this is revealed in bits and pieces as the story progresses (which I like a whole lot), but mostly I don't think I'm going to be getting any convenient info dumps to help explain the world. This is one of those cannon-bomb yourself into the world and hope you manage to swim kind of situations.

And I think I'm kinda doggy paddling.

Reading these books feels like watching the Spanish channel where I can sort of piece together what's going on, but there's a whole lot I have to shrug off and admit I have no clue what they're going on about.

At least there's Conal, who is main character Seth's brother and a significant character in his own right, and he's clear as crystal. And saintly. He's kind of like an Aragorn with his whole beloved-by-all do-gooder morality and rough appearance that does absolutely nothing to hide his halo of wonderfulness. And, just like Aragorn, I can't help but love him.

But his brother Seth, he's not really a nice guy, even though Conal always looks out for him and has an inexplicably unwavering faith that Seth can redeem himself. And he kind of does.

See, the thing about Seth is he's like a dog that is always peeing on your carpets and stealing your last slice of cake and ripping up your favorite sweaters. But then it turns around and does something super sweet like cuddle when you're sad.

I can't wrap my head around Seth, but my general feeling is that I really want to like him and I keep latching onto all the glimmers of goodness he occasionally let shine through. Either way, he's caught my interest for sure.

The glimmers are my first favorite thing. Gillian Philip does a great job crafting little relationships that are full of tenderness and awwww. Seth and Conal have that whole "brothers in arms" thing going on that I LOVE. It's made even cooler by their matchy match pets of awesome (each brother has a wolf and a waterhorse, and I'd probably read this series solely to spend more time with these creatures). Dog lovers will appreciate the relationships with their wolves, especially.

I'd mention some of the other relationships, but they'd be huge spoilers so I won't. But just know, there are relationships with humans that are tender and beautiful and heartbreaking.

My second favorite thing is the world. Now, again, I don't fully get this world. There are all kinds of rules and history and motivations and creatures and I'm not sure how they all fit together and what they all mean. But I'm having a ton of fun figuring it out.

Finally, my third favorite thing is villainess Kate. She has creepy henchmen (SO ewww), inexplicable power, and a game plan that I only partially understand.

What I DO understand is that this lady is full of secrets, she is totally NOT what she appears to be, she is EVIL of the best kind, and her nefarious plotting is the long-game kind (which I LOVE). The series spans centuries, and Kate's plots slowly unfold in a cat-and-mouse game against Conal and Seth who are trying to bring her down in a razor's edge dance to which only Kate seems to know the steps. It's tense, it's heartbreaking, it's confusing, and it's a lot of fun.

Bottom line

This series is strange, but also strangely beautiful. Gillian Philip reminds me of authors like Rachel Neumeier and Sharon Shinn, with the authorial chops to overcome things that would normally send me running.

Don't expect concrete. Don't expect the traditional approach to storytelling with a linear plot and a clear framework for the story. Time jumps by centuries. Characters appear and disappear. Connections are not always readily apparent. The story is as harsh and bewildering as fairies themselves, and her fairies may be the most convincing to me as a result.

This is a hard series for me, but it's a rewarding one. The glimmers, the characters, the moments between them. The losses and triumphs. The determination of war and the crushing defeats.

I may not be sure exactly where I'm going or who I'm going there with when reading these books, but I'm certainly in for the long haul.

* This review is for Firebrand and Bloodstone. The third and final book of the trilogy Wolfsbane will come out July 2014, and I'm having a hard time waiting.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about the Rebel Angels series that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Interested in my interview with Gillian Philip?


  • What you can win: Two winners will each received a finished copy of Bloodstone, book two in the series
  • As always, you do NOT have to be a follower
  • This giveaway is open to US/CA addresses
  • You must be 13 years of age or older
  • One entry per person
  • I will contact the winner through email and the winner will have 24 hours to reply before a new winner is chosen 
  • This giveaway closes on December 31st 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

DNF: Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb

DNF Explanation

Read: 117 of 320
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley

I thought a book about witches (with actual magic) set in Tudor England during the tenuous reign of Mary (as in, Bloody) would be filled with all sorts of excitement and intrigue.

Unfortunately, no. Maybe this is a case of misplaced expectations, but if I had to pick one word to characterize Witchstruck that word would be "boring."

The characters rarely did anything useful with their magic, which I never understand because if I had magic I'd use it for everything. But, I don't know, maybe the magic in this world can't be used like that? It was all very "cast the circle, bring out the ritual knife" kind of magic, which was super serious and kind of sapped the sparkly joy out of magic. Except for when it wasn't and Meg could just do things with her mind. So, yeah, I'm not really clear on the rules of magic in this world.

And, yes, I know the fact that witches are considered evil and tracked down by witch hunters to be killed in horrific very Tudor-esque ways may be somewhat of a deterrent to using said magic, but, seriously, YOU HAVE MAGIC. Can't Meg figure out a way to use her powers (powers to alter the perceptions and thoughts of those around her, by the way) to manage to both be a magical witch AND stay secret?

Apparently not.  

I probably would have been able to get on board even with the frustrating misuse of magic if I had a compelling main character but Meg never struck that best friend chord with me. Her characterization was so wishy washy that I'm not even sure what character traits I'd assign to her.

In one breath she seemed like she had significant magical powers, and then in the next she's talking about how she really doesn't. She's totally on Elizabeth's side, but she doesn't want to stick her neck out to help Elizabeth in a plot to overthrow Mary.

And, I mean, I can see why she'd feel that way what with all the people losing their heads during that time and all, but a timid do nothing main character is a boring main character. Even if it's the smart thing to do (and Meg has already shown that she rarely does the smart thing).

Then there's the romance. Sure, Meg won't get involved to help Elizabeth, but she sure will get involved with a priest (sorry, "soon to be warrior priest" whatever) who has been sent by Mary to spy on Elizabeth. Because that's not stupid or anything.

Also, I had a hard time mustering up a swoon for a priest. Especially a bland priest.

Sorry, "soon to be warrior priest." Whatever.

By the time Meg found herself in a dangerous situation with witch hunters, I disliked her enough to root for the witch hunters. She was only in that situation because she didn't understand the importance of stealth (and then she couldn't figure out how to outwit a "simple" child kitchen maid. Really), and for a witch living in Mary's Tudor court as Elizabeth's pal, well, that's just dumb.

Bottom line

Does the intrigue pick up? Does the magic play a better role? Does Meg learn the value of sneakiness? Does the priest ditch his Catholic calling and transform into a dashing romantic hero? Does Elizabeth DO anything?

I don't know, but that would certainly improve things.

Do you have any questions about Witchstruck that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Did you finish this book? What are your thoughts? Should I pick it up again?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Books I Got

This post is for some of the books I've gotten in the past LONG TIME or so.

For Review

A Breath of Frost
by Alyxandra Harvey

I haven't read Alyxandra Harvey's oft praise Drake Chronicles books yet, but I have read her historical fantasy standalone Haunting Violet. I wasn't totally blown away by it, but it was that type of book that's serves as a great light escape. A Breath of Frost is another historical fantasy with witches and romance and it sounds like it will hit the same mark. I just wish it weren't so long! (Almost 500 pages)

Requested and received via NetGalley.

Becoming Josephine
by Heather Webb

So, now that I've read all about becoming Marie Antoinette, I'd like to continue on with that timeline and read about Napoleon's first empress Josephine. 

Requested and received via NetGalley.


So, I went on a little buying spree...

The Decoy Princess
by Dawn Cook

I ADORED this book! Special Shelf kind of love. Crown Duel kind of love! Scarlett recommended this duology when I asked for court fantasy recommendations, so HUGE THANK YOUs to Scarlett for introducing me to these books! I bought book 2 immediately after, but I haven't read it yet (I'm "saving" it).

The Bad Queen
by Carolyn Meyer

I've been kind of unimpressed with Carolyn Meyer's Young Royals series (okay, pretty good, meh), but there are a few gems in it and The Bad Queen is the brightest of them (also, best cover by far). I thoroughly enjoyed The Bad Queen (complete with crying at the end) and so I couldn't pass it up when I saw a bargain copy.

The Queen's Daughter
by Susan Coventry

I've wanted to read this book for a while, mostly because it's historical fiction about figures I haven't read much about yet (Joan is Eleanor of Aquitaine's daughter) and because, well, isn't the cover pretty? Finding out that Sierra of Yearning to Read recommends it, after also recommending my already-loved The Bad Queen was enough to convince me to buy the bargain copy I found.

Bewitching Season
by Marissa Doyle

Spunky twins, historical fantasy, magic, witches, adorably swoony romances, and a Queen Victoria I actually liked! I saw a used hardcover in great condition and couldn't resist adding it to my personal library.

World After
by Susan Ee

After gobbling up Angelfall (I'm still swooning, chuckling, and horrified), I couldn't wait to get my hands on the sequel. Except, now that I have it, I'm absolutely terrified to read it. Has anyone read it yet? Is it as good as Angelfall? I haven't had much luck with sequels/author's second books lately, so I'm pretty gun shy.

What did you get this week? Are you interested in reading any of these books? What did you think of them if you've read them already?


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Book Blast: Daughters of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

Daughters of the Nile slide

From critically acclaimed historical fantasy author, Stephanie Dray comes the long-awaited new tale based on the true story of Cleopatra's daughter.

After years of abuse as the emperor’s captive in Rome, Cleopatra Selene has found a safe harbor. No longer the pitiful orphaned daughter of the despised Egyptian Whore, the twenty year old is now the most powerful queen in the empire, ruling over the kingdom of Mauretania—an exotic land of enchanting possibility where she intends to revive her dynasty. With her husband, King Juba II and the magic of Isis that is her birthright, Selene brings prosperity and peace to a kingdom thirsty for both. But when Augustus Caesar jealously demands that Selene’s children be given over to him to be fostered in Rome, she’s drawn back into the web of imperial plots and intrigues that she vowed to leave behind. Determined and resourceful, Selene must shield her loved ones from the emperor’s wrath, all while vying with ruthless rivals like King Herod. Can she find a way to overcome the threat to her marriage, her kingdom, her family, and her faith? Or will she be the last of her line?
Read the Reviews

"A stirring story of a proud, beautiful, intelligent woman whom a 21st century reader can empathize with. Dray's crisp, lush prose brings Selene and her world to life." ~RT Book Reviews
"The boldest, and most brilliant story arc Dray has penned..." ~Modge Podge Reviews
"If you love historical fiction and magical realism, these books are for you." ~A Bookish Affair

Read an Excerpt

Below me, six black Egyptian cobras dance on their tails, swaying. I watch their scaled hoods spread wide like the uraeus on the crown of Egypt. Even from this height, I'm paralyzed by the sight of the asps, their forked tongues flickering out between deadly fangs. I don't notice that I'm gripping the balustrade until my knuckles have gone white, all my effort concentrated upon not swooning and falling to my death.

And I would swoon if I were not so filled with rage. Someone has arranged for this. Someone who knows what haunts me. Someone who wants to send me a message and make this occasion a moment of dread. My husband, the king must know it, for he calls down, "That's enough. We've seen enough of the snake charmer!"

There is commotion below, some upset at having displeased us. Then Chryssa hisses, "Who could think it a good idea to honor the daughter of Cleopatra by coaxing asps from baskets of figs?"

The story the world tells of my mother's suicide is that she cheated the emperor of his conquest by plunging her hand into a basket where a venomous serpent lay in wait. A legend only, some say, for the serpent was never found. But I was there. I brought her that basket. She was the one bitten but the poison lingers in my blood to this day. I can still remember the scent of figs in my nostrils, lush and sweet. The dark god Anubis was embroidered into the woven reeds of the basket, the weight of death heavy in my arms. I can still see my mother reach her hand into that basket, surrendering her life so that her children might go on without her. And I have gone on without her.

I have survived too much to be terrorized by the emperor's agents or whoever else is responsible for this.

If it is a message, a warning from my enemies, I have already allowed them too much of a victory by showing any reaction at all. So I adopt as serene a mask as possible. My daughter blinks her big blue eyes, seeing past my facade. "Are you frightened, Mother? They cannot bite us from there. The snakes are very far away."

I get my legs under me, bitterness on my tongue. "Oh, but they're never far enough away."

Daughters of the Nile cover

Available now in print and e-book!

Available now in print and e-book!

Stephanie Dray Headshot
STEPHANIE DRAY is a bestselling, multi-published, award-winning author of historical women’s fiction and fantasy set in the ancient world. Her critically acclaimed historical series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into more than six different languages, was nominated for a RITA Award and won the Golden Leaf. Her focus on Ptolemaic Egypt and Augustan Age Rome has given her a unique perspective on the consequences of Egypt's ancient clash with Rome, both in terms of the still-extant tensions between East and West as well as the worldwide decline of female-oriented religion. Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has-to the consternation of her devoted husband-collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.
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