Song of the Nile continues the fantastical story of Cleopatra Selene, the daughter of Mark Antony and Cleopatra. The setting shifts away from Rome and into Mauretania, where Selene is to be queen with her husband Juba. It’s not what she wanted, but she vows to make the most of it and impress Augustus into handing Egypt over to her. Unfortunately, as always seems to be the case, it’s easier said than done.
First, there’s her husband Juba. He’s sulky and seems to pine for Rome. Oh, and he knows Selene’s daughter is not his. Juba thinks Augustus is the father, however, if he knew the truth, he would probably vomit. Because Selene isn’t really sure who the father is. It can’t be Juba, because they never consummated the marriage. The whole paternity thing is like an episode of the Maury show. But worse. ‘Cause the father could be Helios – Selene’s twin brother.
Okay, so I got off track a bit here, but I think this is important to mention. There is an incestuous love in this book. It’s squeamish to think about, ‘cause, ew… incest. Somehow, though, it’s not as gross as an incest storyline I once read in a Philippa Gregory book. And it’s a little easier to believe than that other set of incestuous twins from the Song of Ice and Fire world. Why? Because it actually makes sense. Selene is an Egyptian queen. Typically, they married their own brothers. She’s just following tradition.
Anyway, Selene’s heka powers become more powerful now that she’s older, though she must learn how to control them. For instance, she swallows up a sand storm, though she doesn’t really know how she did it. Things like this make it easier to gain the love of her new people. And Selene finds she loves them back. A niggle of guilt is always there, however, for turning her back on Egypt for the moment.
And then there’s Augustus himself. He seems to want Selene as his own Cleopatra, to be just like Julius Caesar. This creepy notion has him constantly beckoning Selene to his side. In fact, he plans to use her magic to conquer the Parthians, which frightens Selene, because her magic is not meant for harm. And not meant for the emperor.
This second book of a trilogy (read my review of Lily of the Nile) is thus mostly about Selene struggling between making a new life without Egypt at its center or going against her heart to please the emperor and get back her birthright. In a way, it is also a struggle to find herself out of her mother’s shadow and not to repeat her mother’s mistakes.
I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the first one, plot wise, but I did enjoy the writing and how Stephanie Dray drew me into Ancient Rome. It was easy to get lost in that era and a breeze to read. I’m definitely going to continue with the trilogy and I look forward to it.
My rating: 4/5