There's a mythology out there surrounding Cleopatra. Whether it's the manner in which she presented herself to Caesar or the intrigue surrounding how she died. *Side note- I can't remember which History Channel show (one of the ones that use to actually discuss history, I imagine) but there was one that proved the whole rug thing, could have never happened. She would have died before she got to Caesar. * Everyone has an opinion of the woman. If you are one of the few people who don't have an opinion, plenty has been written about the woman. An opinion would be easy to come by. This story, however, cares very little for Cleopatra. This is a story about Ptolemy and Arsinoe, Cleopatra's siblings/spouses/pains in her backside.
Actually, this is a story about Ptolemy and what happens when little boys become men. Somewhere among the constant descriptions of wet dreams and the use of the f-word (Which by the way, I need to do some research on. Was that even a word ancient Egyptians would have known?), Ptolemy is fighting to earn the respect he deserves as the rightful king of Egypt. The reader is introduced to an 11 year old Ptolemy who is struggling to mature into the powerful ruler Egypt needs in order to keep Rome at bay. The author would have your believe that the most important aspect of presiding over a dynasty is "conquering" the women around you. I guess that comes with a lot of nocturnal emissions. The fact that Arsinoe (and occasionally Cleopatra) are the focus of his wet dreams doesn't bother me. I am well versed enough in my ancient dynasties to know that if you are a Ptolemy, it means you have to marry your sister, or in some cases, your step-mom. I get that. It doesn't bother me. What drove me bonkers was the constant focus on Ptolemy and his penis. If I wanted to read a book about what goes on when a boy becomes a man, I'd go back to 7th grade health. And to be perfectly honest, as a mother of girls, I'm trying to avoid thinking about the primal urges of teenage boys before I absolutely have to. I'm going to loose enough sleep over that at some point in my life.
When the reader isn't asked to feel bad for Ptolemy and his penis, we are asked to feel sorry for Arsinoe. Apparently Arsinoe has some major choices to make. Should she f*ck her brother or Alexander, her childhood playmate? Or does she just throw herself into being Cleopatra's minion? The last one is kind of an afterthought. Arsinoe feels like an afterthought (which she kind of is in the grand scheme of things). This was one of the biggest let downs for me. In the previous novel, the reader is introduced to this spunky, tough little Arsinoe who literally fights to survive a shattered Egypt. Suddenly, Cleopatra is back! So now, she turns into a mopey teenage girl who only wants Alexander to throw her against the way and have his way with her? Ugh.
Maybe at this point you are starting to wonder how I could possibly give this book as many as three stars. Why would I even continue to read this book after the fifth Ptolemy wet dream? Because I was hoping the author would bring back some of what made the previous novel so good. She did. For about the last 75 pages. The battle at sea between Arsinoe and Caesar? The writing was exceptional. Had that style been on display for the entire novel, this would easily be a 5 star book. It also means, I'm probably going to pick up the third and final novel. I have to see how this ends, right?