Audio Review: Cleopatra’s Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter


September 5, 2012 by Heidi

Cleopatra's Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter book coverTitle: Cleopatra’s Moon [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Vicky Alvear Shecter [Website|Twitter]
Standing: Stand alone novel.
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Mythological
Published: August 1st, 2011 by Oasis Audio (Arthur A. Levine Books)
Format: Audiobook; 12 hrs, 25 min.
Read by Kirsten Potter
Source: Downloaded via Sync

Princess of Egypt… Cleopatra Selene is the only daughter of the brilliant Queen Cleopatra of Egypt and General Marcus Antonius of Rome. She’s grown up with jewels on her arms, servants at her feet, and all the pleasures of a palace at her command, and she wants only to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a great and powerful queen. Prisoner of Rome…. Then the Roman ruler Octavianus, who has always wanted Egypt’s wealth, launches a war that destroys all Selene has ever known. Taken to live in Octavianus’ palace in Rome, she vows to defeat him and reclaim her kingdom at all costs. Yet even as she gathers support for her return, Selene finds herself torn between two young men and two different paths to power. Will love distract her from her goal – or help her achieve her true destiny? Epic in scope and ravishing in detail, this audio book reveals the extraordinary life of a girl long hidden in history: the remarkable Cleopatra Selene.

For anyone who enjoys lush historical fiction, rich mythology, and the struggles between politics and romance, Cleopatra’s Moon is the perfect audiobook for you.  Incorporating the ideal music to set the mood between each chapter, Vicky Alvear Shecter’s debut shines in its beauty as a story, and narrator Kirsten Potter brings it to life as few others could.

I first heard of Cleopatra’s Moon toward the end of 2011, when Thea of The Booksmugglers read and adored it, adding it to her list of top reads for the year, which of course will instantly put a book on my own TBR.  This was the third Sync title I’ve listened to this summer, but the first to truly impress upon me the certainty that I could not have enjoyed this book more had I read the text instead of listened.  Telling the story of Celopatra Selene, Cleopatra’s Moon covers the young woman’s life from the time when she is but a child of 7 to a young woman or marriageable age.  Not only were the historical aspects well researched and incredibly intriguing, the very world became alive with the sights, smells, and general aura that was ancient Alexandria and Rome.  I truly felt as if I was there, and fell in love with this period in time all over again.

It wasn’t only the story of Vicky Alvear Shecter’s Cleopatra’s Moon that make this book so strong, indeed, nearly anyone could compose something similar were they willing to do enough research (of course, there had to be a lot of filling in as there aren’t truly many detailed records or Cleopatra Selene and her brothers’ childhoods), it was the infusing of powerful thought provoking moments that gave Cleopatra’s Moon its depth and meat.

Cleopatra’s Moon caused me to question the influences of fate versus free will over our lives, the point at which acceptance of one’s situation becomes acquiescence to it, and the power we have to choose.  A feminist book to its core, Cleopatra Selene is a strong female lead who wants nothing more than to follow in her mother’s footsteps as the leader of Egypt, but struggles increasingly at the reality that she lives in a world where she must depend on or use men in order to achieve her goals.  She constantly points out the hypocrisy in Roman laws that apply to women but not men, and refuses to be treated as an inferior because of her sex.

Cleopatra Selene wasn’t a character who always made the right decision, or never failed, but her unyielding spirit and drive to meet her goals even after years of waiting make her a character you must always respect.  She challenges those around her to be their own best, including her brothers, and particularly Juba, the young Numidian whose own country was wrested from his hands by the Romans but seems perfectly content to live as a scholar and Roman citizen.  Though a Roman citizen, Cleopatra Selene never forgets where she came from, and maintains strong spiritual ties to her homeland, never relenting her steadfast belief in her gods, culture, or family.

For me, the greatest disappointment was that  Cleopatra’s Moon contained no Author’s Note, which is always my favorite part of winding down from any historical fiction.  I love to know how much was fact, and what was changed or conjecture, but in order to find these facts I had to look up Cleopatra Selene online.  Obviously, however, this was not in any way a deterrent to my enjoyment of Cleopatra’s Moon, which had the power to break my heart and give me strength, making it just the type of book I adore.

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more:  This was such a lovely debut, I can’t wait for Vicky Alvear Shecter’s sophomore novel!  I’m mostly just wringing my hands to see which direction she goes in.

Recommended for:  Everyone who loves fantastic historical fiction, strong female characters, books that make you think, books that cover a long period of time, and strong use of mythology.  Egyptian mythology in particular!

Get a second opinion:
The Book Smugglers


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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.