cover image Queen of Kings

Queen of Kings

Maria Dahvana Headley. Dutton, $25.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-525-95217-6

The blurbs compare Headley's Cleopatra-gone-bad fantasia to Diana Gabaldon and Neil Gaiman, but it's likely that the Anne Rice fans will find more to like here. Though there are some lovely romantic scenes at the outset, this is no romance. The Egyptian capital of Alexandria is under siege by the vengeful Octavian, out to punish Marc Antony for choosing loyalty to Cleopatra over Rome, and over Octavian's sister, whom Antony has divorced. Antony dies within the first few pages, and Cleopatra seeks to strike a bargain with the ancient lion-headed goddess, Sekhmet, to bring him back. The deal goes bad, as all such bargains must, and the question becomes not whether Antony will live again, but what price will Sekhmet extract from Cleopatra for the queen's audacity? Part horror, part history, and all tragedy, the story is not likely to please romance fans. But for those who enjoy the eroticized violence and stylish nightmares of the Rice tradition, Headley delivers a vivid dose. (May)