Cleopatra Selene Enchants in Dray’s “Song of the Nile”

Cleopatra Selene Enchants in Dray’s “Song of the Nile”

When readers last saw Cleopatra Selene II, the orphaned daughter of Cleopatra VII and Marc Antony in Stephanie Dray’s Lily of the Nile, the young girl was on the cusp of turning into a woman.

In her second novel called Song of the Nile, Cleopatra Selene II is older, more feisty, and is determined to get her hands on her birthright: her mother’s Egypt. In order to return to her home, Selene has turned herself into Emperor Augustus Caesar’s (formally known as Octavian) most unlikely apprentice. However, when she’s forced into a marriage with Juba II, the King of Mauretania, Selene uses her status as a religious icon and the magic of the Egyptian Goddess Isis to turn her new kingdom into a prosperous land. Despite the backdrop of religious persecution from Rome, Selene must wrestle with her ambition and her desire to live free from the Emperor. She may love Egypt and want to re-claim her birthright, but first Selene has to decide if it’s worth it to risk her soul.

Unlike the first book in the series, Song of the Nile deals with more mature themes, showing Selene’s transition from scared and rebellious child to a mature, intelligent, and capable Queen. However, Dray doesn’t make things easy for her heroine. Selene must overcome being raped, verbally and emotionally abused by the Emperor’s wife, and the death of her youngest brother. There’s also the issue of her loveless marriage to Juba and his refusal to see how much of a monster the Emperor really is.

Despite the trauma that she suffers at the hands of Augustus, Selene rises up like a phoenix to be stronger than ever before. Not only does she learn to wield the magic of Isis, but she builds up the court of Mauretania and provides a safe haven for Isaics and Egyptians alike as well.

The novel concludes with Selene finally making a choice about whether or not to pursue her mother’s kingdom, but thanks to Dray’s masterful writing, readers are left to eagerly anticipate the third and final book in the series.

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