Book Review: Cleopatra’s Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter

CLEOPATRA’S MOON by Vicky Alvear Shecter
Publication Date: August 1st 2011 by Arthur A. Levine Books

Summary: “The Luxe” meets the ancient world in the extraordinary story of Cleopatra’s daughter.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.

Review Overview:

  • Shecter wonderfully captures the setting of both Egypt and Rome
  • Overall slow pacing, but it matched the character’s impatience and restlessness
  • Recommended to lovers of Ancient Egyptian and Roman civilizations

Jumping into this book almost completely blind, I had no idea what to expect from CLEOPATRA’S MOON. Prior to reading this book, all the knowledge I had was that this was a book about Cleopatra in Egypt. Little did I know, there were many Cleopatras throughout history, and this story was actually centered on the daughter of the famous Cleopatra that I had in mind. Immediately, this book definitely taught me a few things about history.

First off, the prologue to the book basically sets up the premise of the entire book. It’s a bit depressing and tragic to immediately hear that our young Cleopatra had suffered so much. Since I pretty much knew nothing about her history, I didn’t know if this story was going to have a happy or sad ending. With any other historical novel that I read (no matter who it is…) I always hope for a happily ever after even if my history classes in the past told me that certain characters didn’t get to live a very happy ending. Without giving anything away, I’d just like to say that overall, the ending was quite satisfying.

What I love about a good historical novel is the ability of an author to recreate the past. Shecter was definitely able to do just that, as she vividly described life in Ancient Egypt and Rome. I admit that I am a bit ignorant when it came to Egypt’s past civilization because other than the pyramids (really, I am ashamed that I knew so little of their lives and culture!) I was not aware that Egypt was such a cultural and intellectual hub. Furthermore, Shecter taught me even more about Roman civilization than I ever would have known. I took Latin in high school and I thought I had a pretty good grasp on what it was like to live as a Roman. I guess I had a general idea, but I loved the tiny details that Shecter placed in the novel about daily Roman life, like using urine to bleach clothes. The facts about both Egypt and Roman life flowed seamlessly into the story so it definitely did not seem like reading from a textbook. I appreciated the fact that the novel had notes on the historical aspect of the book, especially because I was not very familiar with Egyptian history. The historical notes made it clear which parts of the book were based on true events and which parts were fictionalized.

CLEOPATRA’S MOON made me reexamine what I knew about Roman history. When I took Latin in high school, I admit that Rome was a bit glorified. I never thought twice and actually examined how Rome got to be such a powerful civilization. They had slaves, they fought many wars with other nations/kingdoms, women pretty much had no say in anything…. It was almost refreshing to see the Romans as the bad guys for once. It was definitely interesting to hear Cleopatra Selene’s view point of how the Romans basically destroyed her life…

The pacing in CLEOPATRA’S MOON becomes increasingly slower as the book progresses. While the novel falls under 350 pages long, it felt a lot longer because of the lack of action in the book. But the slow pacing adequately reflects Cleopatra Selene’s growing restlessness and impatience to get out of Rome and back to her rightful throne in Egypt. The book definitely picked back up again in the last 100 pages of the book when Cleopatra Selene was forced to choose a life-altering decision. Should she follow her heart or do what she feels is best for her country?

I would only recommend CLEOPATRA’S MOON to die-hard fans of historical fiction. CLEOPATRA’S MOON is a heavy piece of literature mostly because I think you would really have to take an interest in this time period to enjoy it due to the slow pacing.


  1. I’ve always been drawn in to Greek & Roman history and events ? Especially those mythologies! Cleopatra’s Moon seems like a really good book! I’ll be checking out my bookstore for it when it comes out! ?

  2. Well, I don’t like slow pacing, but I do like how detailed this book sounds. I love historical fiction and while I know a lot about Selene’s mother, I don’t know too much about Selene. Thanks for the info! I feel better now knowing there’s a lot of fact and the fiction parts are clearly identified.

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