cover image Throne of Isis

Throne of Isis

Judith Tarr. Forge, $22.95 (349pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85363-1

The author of Lord of the Two Lands brings to her newest novel the potentially potent combination of doomed lovers, crafty politicians and exotic settings. But Tarr's lethargic handling of these ingredients, coupled with an inability to animate one of history's most famous couples, dooms much of this book to tedium. Antony and Cleopatra, whose dalliance spans a decade, meet in 41 B.C. and immediately merge passion with politics. Cleopatra wants land, Antony wants ships; both encounter complications. Antony is saddled with a vindictive wife and an ambitious co-ruler, Octavian, in Rome. Civil war looms. Although major characters remain one-dimensional (Antony, for example, is portrayed as merely a drunken lout), Cleopatra's prescient cousin, Dione, sparks the story with her exuberant personality and manages to present a unique perspective on background events. She is joined in her pessimistic reading of signs and portents by Roman augur Lucius Servilius, an engaging figure whose stiff Roman pride crumbles before Dione's charms, and the two visionaries embark on a sizzling romance. Unfortunately, however, some finely rendered details of Egyptian life and one spirited love affair are not enough to rescue this effort. (Apr.)