Published: Sphere/Hachette NZ
Date: 13th October 2015
Format: Paperback ARC
Genre: Historical Ficton
Source: Hachette NZ
This is the story of Berenice and Arsinoe, sisters of Cleopatra. Ptolemy their father and Cleopatra have left Egypt after Berenice has seized power.
Arsinoe is eight, almost nine, when they leave. She feels abandoned by the sister she adores. She does not feel valued by her father, and as they leave she is thrown on the mercy of her half sister Berenice. Her maid and her eunuch Ganymedes are a mainstay in these uncertain times. She is allowed to live, Bernice shows mercy to her despite the suggestion by Bernice's mother that she is being soft. Arsinoe is a child, a scholar, living on her wits in uncertain times. Her visions and dreams haunt her, ones of violence and death.
Berenice has been crowned queen, she has been jealous of her sister Cleopatra, as it is she who their father Ptolemy favours. She feels a deep sense of being overlooked and empty within. As the story opens she has managed to gain power - but for how long? She cannot be certain of anyone and the danger of those around her betraying her is always a threat. While highly focussed on her goal, she is cold and relentless, yet there are times of vulnerability and mercy. When courage is needed, she faces into what needs to be faced. She has two husbands, both different, both married for the same reasons.
I have been very ignorant of this historical period, yes I had heard of Cleopatra but that is all. What a major dysfunctional family! Brothers married sisters, it was highly accepted and even politically recommended. Abandonment and power struggles, murder and fear seems to have been prevalent. I kept thinking I was so happy never to have been born in that time period!
I went online to read more about these two half sisters, what I read checked out with the book. Yes I also wanted to find out what happened to them before I finished the book! Naturally it is fiction, the feelings and interactions imagined, but in a very believable way. It is extremely well written and drew me in.
Readers who enjoy historical fiction and especially that of Ancient Egypt will I am sure thoroughly enjoy the drama and intrigue of Cleopatra's Shadows.