“Lily of the Nile” Re-Imagines Cleopatra’s Daughter as a Compelling Magical Heroine
The first book in Stephanie Dray’s Nile trilogy introduces readers to Cleopatra Selene II, the only daughter of the famous Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt. Loosely based on historical records, in the book Selene is taken captive by her parents’ mortal enemy Augustus Caesar and winds up being raised in his house after losing her two brothers to a fever. She then marries Juba II of Mauritania and sets about recreating Alexandria in her new kingdom.
With a deft hand, Dray adds touches of magical realism, including a powerful scene where Cleopatra VII gives each of her three children a talisman that gifts them with magical powers. Philadelphus receives a Collar of Gold that allows him to see visions of the past, present, and future, Helios is given a necklace that gifts him with preternatural strength and the power to control fire, and Selene’s last gift from her mother is a frog amulet that contains Cleopatra’s VII ‘soul’ and the power to control wind.
This blending of magic and history makes Lily of the Nile an utterly fascinating read, and it’s obvious that Dray has spent many hours in the library to make sure that her fictionalized version stays true to actual events. Her characters are compelling as well, from the rebellious Helios to the treacherous Augustus Caesar, there’s not one character who is stiff or one-dimensional. Everyone has shades of grey, and that’s part of what makes this book such an enjoyable read.
For those who love both fantasy novels and historical fiction, Stephanie Dray’s Lily of the Nile is the perfect mix of both and would make a welcome addition to any bookshelf.