Cleopatra’s Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter
Selene has grown up in a palace on the Nile with her parents, Cleopatra & Mark Antony–the most brilliant, powerful rulers on earth. But the jealous Roman Emperor Octavianus wants Egypt for himself, & when war finally comes, Selene faces the loss of all she’s ever loved. Forced to build a new life in Octavianus’s household in Rome, she finds herself torn between two young men and two possible destinies–until she reaches out to claim her own.
This stunning novel brings to life the personalities & passions of one of the greatest dramas in history, & offers a wonderful new heroine in Selene.
As a historical fiction enthusiast, I’m always excited to see historical fiction on the shelves. More and more lately, I’ve been excited to see some of this coming to young adult shelves, especially since it’s some of my favorite stuff. I’m a huge fan of Egyptian history, specifically the Michelle Moran books for example. When I saw Cleopatra’s Moon on the shelves of the Teen section, I was instantly curious. Michelle Moran had already covered the topic of Cleopatra’s daughter Cleopatra Selene very well, but I was interested to see what the young adult take on her would be. The results were actually quite interesting.
The beginning of the book was very similar to Moran’s, to the point that I was almost bored. Honestly, this isn’t Shecter’s fault: historical fiction is historical fiction. My interest began to rise, however, as Shecter began to make the different decisions, like letting both of Selene’s brothers live when they were at Rome. A few other plot twists and differences developed, and I was ecstatic. It really morphed into a different take on who Selene was, while keeping her likeable and relatable.
Perhaps the most amusing difference between Moran and Shecter’s books is dictated by the shelves I found them on, adult and teen respectively. Though Cleopatra’s Moon was on the teen shelf, Shecter’s Selene actually makes more adult-ish decisions than Moran’s. Whether its witnessing her father’s death or planning to seduce a Roman man just like her mother did, this Selene is far more headstrong. Here is how Shecter gets Selene to transcend time and fit in on the teen shelf. She doesn’t hold back. Selene becomes a fighter, a girl determined to retake her homeland at any cost while asserting her pride in her female identity.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore both books. Cleopatra’s Moon is going to go into a slot right next to my Michelle Moran books. This is what I so enjoy about historical fiction, these different views on the life of one person, and how they interacted with the other historical figures of their time. I certainly recommend Cleopatra’s Moon for all lovers of Egyptian historical fiction, teen or adult. Unlike Moran’s books, however, which were much more steeped in fact and historical story, I also recommend this book to readers curious but perhaps not entirely into historical fiction. (Moran’s books can also be read by non-history lovers, but I believe they’re more enjoyable when you have the background.) Whether you like history or not, the Selene of Cleopatra’s Moon is a feisty female heroine that every teen girl can relate to and take courage from.