30 BC: Kleopatra’s and Marc Anthony’s forces are crushed by approaching army of Octavian. Hearing rumors that Kleopatra is dead, Marc Anthony commits suicide. And as Caesar’s troops rush towards Alexandria, Kleopatra and her children – twins Kleopatra Selene and Alexander Helios, and young Ptolemy – await their uncertain destiny in the mausoleum.
Tricking Kleopatra into taking her own life, Octavian shows some compassion for the young orphans (having already killed their two older brothers), and brings them along on the voyage back to Rome. Only Selene and Alexander survive the trip and are given over to Marc Anthony’s second wife and Octavian’s sister, Octavia, to be raised alongside her children.
Despite being betrayed by Marc Anthony, who left her for Kleopatra, Octavia becomes a motherly figure in the twins’ lives and their staunch supporter. Attractive and intelligent, Selene and Alexander are treated with deference and awarded the same privileges as other children of royalty. However, their position in Rome is uncertain and Selene wonders what will become of them once they come of age and are no longer useful, or deemed a threat to Caesar. Will they be married off as prizes to an old man and an aging widow, or be eliminated at a wave of Octavian’s finger?
Narrated by Selene, Cleopatra’s Daughter is a fascinating look into the world of Roman intrigue, and the lives of children who walk the line between being guests and prisoners of Octavian. With the exception of a few secondary characters, the people and events are rooted in actual Roman history, and Michelle Moran does a superb job of re-creating this once-great empire. (I watched a History Channel special on ancient Rome after reading Cleopatra’s Daughter, and found myself already familiar with the various sites mentioned heavily throughout the book) Moran’s writing is fluid and compelling, and she easily crosses the line between young adult and adult historical fiction. Cleopatra’s Daughter is part a historical account, part a love story, and part a book you will not be able to put down.
Visit the website of Cleopatra’s Daughter for a trailer of the book.