To Isis worshipers, Princess Selene and her twin brother Helios embody the divine celestial pair who will bring about a Golden Age. But when Selene's parents are vanquished by Rome, her auspicious birth becomes a curse. Trapped in an empire that reviles her heritage and suspects her faith, the young messianic princess struggles for survival in a Roman court of intrigue. She can't hide the hieroglyphics that carve themselves into her hands, nor can she stop the emperor from using her powers for his own ends. But faced with a new and ruthless Caesar who is obsessed with having a Cleopatra of his very own, Selene is determined to resurrect her mother's dreams. Can she succeed where her mother failed? And what will it cost her in a political game where the only rule is win-or die?
This was one of those books I just couldn't put down. If you are a fan of reading about Egypt, the Roman Empire, or historical fiction in general, you'll love this book!
If you are a history nerd (like me) there will be tense parts of the plot where you already know the outcome, so I'm going to try to do this review as spoiler-free as possible. I have to say that Selene broke my heart. I felt with her and for her throughout the whole novel. Stephanie Dray does a great job of getting inside her head, imagining her perception of the things she sees in Rome, instead of just what the history book tell us.
Although Dray never outright changes what happened to the real Selene, she does fudge some dates and uses a pretty slanted view of history at times to make her narrative work. But since this is fiction, that is okay. And I love that she is honest about her choices in the author's note, and tries to give a fuller picture of the time.
I did have a hard time remembering that Selene is supposed to be 10-13 or 14 in Lily of the Nile, but since her upbringing as future Queen of Egypt would have been quite different than a normal child's, it is very possible she acted that way. My only complaint is that the book is labeled YA historical fiction. In my opinion it should be a historical fiction/fantasy because Selene actually communes with Isis, rather dramatically at times. But since I love a good fantasy as well, I guess it isn't really a complaint at all. :)
Rating 5/5 stars
YA notes: None