Lily of the Nile

Written by Stephanie Dray
Review by Nanette Donohue

After unwittingly helping her mother commit suicide, Cleopatra Selene, daughter of Egypt’s Queen Cleopatra and Mark Antony, is taken from her homeland in captivity. Selene and her brothers, Helios and Philadelphus, are delivered to Rome, where they live in the royal court at the mercy of Octavian. Raised in her mother’s Egyptian court, Selene is no stranger to politics and intrigue, and she quickly realizes that the survival of the remaining members of her family depends largely on her ability to scheme, manipulate, and turn royal favor in her direction. It’s a lot of responsibility for a young woman, but Selene is a Ptolemy, and she takes her legacy seriously. Adapting to Roman customs, she carries herself with dignity, presenting herself as an ambassador for her people and for the Isiac faith.

Dray’s debut, the first in a projected trilogy about Cleopatra Selene, is a fine addition to the growing body of fiction and nonfiction about Cleopatra and her descendants. Selene is believable as both a historical figure and as a teenage girl – there’s the gravitas one expects of a Ptolemy princess, but there are also slumber-party type conversations with her contemporaries. She’s a survivor, and survival isn’t always pretty, especially if you’re a woman in a male-dominated world. I look forward to the second volume in the trilogy, which will focus on the newly-wed Selene’s journey to the kingdom of Mauritania, where she will rule as queen.