Monday, January 17, 2011

Lily of the Nile

Lily of the Nile
Author: Stephanie Dray
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 351
Read Time: 3 days (It should have been less, but “life” got in the way. I could have read this in one sitting!)
Rating (1-5): 20!
Tag Words: 2011 Debut Author Challenge, Historical Fiction Challenge, 350+ Pages Challenge, ABC Book Challenge (L), Pharaoh, Cleopatra and her daughter, Selene, The Sun and The Moon or The “Holy” Twin’s, Augustus Octavian Caesar, Egypt, Pagan worship of the goddess Isis, Best I’ve read 2011
My Summary:
Selene and her twin Helios, and her brother Philadelphus have been taken captive by the new Caesar- Octavian. Abandoned by their mother, Cleopatra, for the Afterlife, they eagerly await the news of their eldest brother and the rightful Ceasar’s son- Ceasarion. When Ceasarion is revealed to be dead the Twin’s of the Sun and Moon take diverging paths to try and redeem Egypt and their goddess Isis. 
Selene has been proclaimed The Resurrection, but can she find her inner strength to harness the magic her mother has left behind? Will Selene take her place as Queen of Egypt, or will she remain a Lily cast in the wide Nile of time?
My Review:
It is very early on in the year, but I have Tagged Lily of the Nile with the coveted ‘Best I’ve Read 2011’ label. This book is seriously brilliant. Everything about this book speaks for itself, I don’t know what words I can add to it, so I will just tell you the things I noticed about Debut Author Stephanie Dray’s writing and how she created an entire heroine from a few little known historical facts.
First of all, Dray uses her knowledge of the time period to create literary symbolism and move her plot froward. Instead of detailing to the ‘enth’ degree a day in the life of her characters, Dray embodied Selene, as the daughter of Cleopatra and made solid political, religious and personal-strength choices that lend themselves to creating an entirely accurate account of Selene’s reign as a Captive Queen. I never felt stifled by the time period; the plot moved with the finesse and aquatic grace of the Nile itself.
Secondly, somehow Dray made the relationship between Selene and Helios into something not quite romantic, but not wholly familial either. In addition... I was cheering for them. Weird, yes, but also very true and I challenge all of you to not fall in love with the possibility of Helios after reading of his strength and desire to protect Egypt, which as the embodiment of Isis on Earth, is Selene. 
This is an amazing book, I was not expecting to love it as much as I do, but I am glad to know so little about this time in history, so that Dray can continue to enchant me without reservation on my part; I can’t wait to see how the rest of Selene’s story plays out in the sequel! 
Notes on the Names: Obviously Dray did not get to choose her character’s names, but I do want to talk about some of the names. First of all, Cleopatra was Queen, not only of the Nile, but of names! She named her twin’s Helios and Selene, the sun and moon. Wow. What’s even better is how Dray uses their names in her fiction. 
I also noticed the Roman Trend of having a son and daughter and giving them the same name. Octavian and Octavia (I love the name Octavia), Marcellus and Marcella. 
Would any of you be interested in reading a Friday Name Fame post about the names from this time period in reflection of Lily of the Nile? I think I want to write one...
Thoughts on the Cover: This is a gorgeous cover, I was sure it would look phony in front of me, but it really only becomes more breathe-taking when you can see the small golden details of the flowers and the jewels on Selene. The back cover is also very well edited, kudos to the design team for the Lilies! 

And in honor of Lily of the Nile:

Parental Book Review *spoilers*
Sexual Content: 
Marcella marries Agrippa and returns home the follow morning in fear of her husband. She describes her first night with her husband saying that he called out her mother’s name and then, “he found his pleasure.” The girls, Selene, Marcella and Julia decide that Marcella should hold this over Agrippa’s head so she can get what she wants out of married life. Julia suggests that Marcella change the name he called out, from Octavia to Octavian. 
It is later revealed in the story that the Poet Virgil is a homosexual and that Marcellus, Octavian’s nephew, is his lover. There are no scenes between them.
Julia and Iullus have a relationship, Selene witnesses them kissing as lovers, but the tone of the scene is not heavy.
Chryssa, Helios’s servant has promised her virginity to Isis and Ceasar takes her to bed to spite Helios. 
Selene briefly describes one of the more infamous rituals of the Isiac religion where great promiscuity is mentioned. 
Selene and Helios are meant to be married, once Ceasarion is pronounced dead, and rule as Pharaoh together; there is never any physical intimacy between them, but Helios’s sense of devotion to Selene has the tone of a lover, not a twin. 
The women of the Isiac religion are often called names that suit those who are very loose. Selene and Cleopatra most often receive this criticism. 
Selene receives bloody messages from Isis, which carve themselves into her arms; it is later revealed that these messages arrive once Selene has dealt with the blood of a loved one.
The Prince of Emesa is slaughtered for defending Selene during the march of the Triumph. 
Helios and Iullus get into a bloody fight because Iullus says Selene is a whore and Helios defends her. 
Both Helios and Chryssa suffer beatings and whippings in the story for defiance of Ceasar. 
Other Notables: 
The basis of the Isiac religion is sorcery and it is very prominent in Lily of the Nile. 

No comments: