PHARAOH: Volume II of Kleopatra
The second volume of Essex's Kleopatra series, which picks up as the 22-year-old queen of Egypt returns from exile in Rome, overflows with war, sex, political intrigue and the fruits of Essex's assiduous research on everything from ancient Egyptian religious ceremonies to traffic laws in Julius Caesar's Rome. Essex's Kleopatra is ruled by her lust for power. Everything she controls—her body, her money—is a tool with which to improve her position and that of her country. As she puts it, "In matters of state, let your blood run cold." She joins with Caesar, aligning Egypt with Rome, but when he's murdered, Kleopatra lays the groundwork for a similar association with Antony, to whom she is overwhelmingly attracted. Each of these alliances transcends its political motivation. Kleopatra loves both men, viewing Caesar as a mentor and Antony as a soul mate. Yet this love never clouds her self-promoting vision, making Essex's Kleopatra more than a simple seductress, as she is often portrayed. Indeed, the careful balance Essex strikes between Kleopatra's intimate emotional life and her statecraft makes this a satisfyingly nuanced and approachable portrait. As with its predecessor, the novel's rich language, attention to historical detail and fast-flowing action offer an invigorating read for those interested in ancient history or simply the thrills of battles and romance. (Aug.)
Forecast:Essex's Kleopatra must vie with other fictional Cleopatras—most notably, Margaret George's (The Memoirs of Cleopatra, 1997)—but Kleo-with-a-K has already attracted a following and should continue to sell steadily.
Release date: 08/01/2002