It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult. - Seneca

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Find out what the Critics are saying about Author Stephanie Dray & Lily of the Nile...


Errant Dreams Reviews

I have to admit, I squealed when Stephanie Dray’s Lily of the Nile found its way into my review pile. I’m a sucker for anything Cleopatra-related, and I was thrilled to have another chance to dip my toes into her world. Selene is a fascinating character, and watching her struggle with her feelings towards her deceased mother and her goddess while trying to weave a path through Octavian’s politics and ambitions is nothing short of breathtaking.

I really have to commend the amount of research that went into developing this book. It breathes such a sense of life and immediacy into the story, and as I read I could see the streets of Rome and feel the currents of common opinion changing. It made it so much easier to enter into Selene’s head and get caught up in her life. Don’t let the depth of research intimidate you; Ms. Dray has done a wonderful job of avoiding Latin terms or confusing spellings of names if at all possible. It makes for a very enjoyable, textured read. With that being said, purists may object to Ms. Dray changing the timeline in a couple of places, but for me it didn’t take away from the story at all, as those changes aren’t too terribly drastic.

Selene’s character as envisioned by Ms. Dray is without a doubt my favorite version that I have come across. Because of the depth of research, Selene moves from the romantic portrayals that ignore most of her mother’s legacy (educational and ideological) and render her a character largely unaware of the deeper undercurrents of the world into a young woman attempting to make the best of a difficult situation using her intellect. While she still goes through personal conflict as well, this conflict becomes a part of the story as opposed to the majority of it.

With that being said, Selene’s twin brother Helios can feel a bit flat at times, because his hatred towards Octavian and the Romans is so pronounced that it can obscure the rest of his personality. While the tension that exists at times between him and Selene at times is only natural between siblings, as the book progresses his anger began to me to feel more like a plot device than a character trait.

Octavian is portrayed as a rather cold, calculating man, and records seem to bear this out. And yet what fascinated me the most about him was that no mater how much he hated Cleopatra and what she stood for, he still considered her the only one capable of appreciating the scope of what he accomplished. It is a curiously human side at odds with his hard ambition, and put an entirely new spin on my perceptions of his personality.
Politics, both personal and played out on a world stage, play a large part in the lives of Selene and her brothers. Not only do they need to satisfy Octavian, but there are undercurrents in his household with his general Agrippa, his wife Livia, and his sister Octavia. The more I read, the more I found myself measuring how I might react in a given situation against Selene’s reactions. It definitely helped me appreciate the depth of education provided by simply growing up in a royal court, because I suspect Selene acquits herself better than I ever would!

The mixing of Isis worship into this cauldron of intrigue and politics adds a layer of depth to the lives of Cleopatra’s children that had never occurred to me before. Cleopatra portrays her children in a religious light more than once while she is alive; Ms. Dray has taken that idea and extended it on into their lives. In doing so, she illuminates some of the very earliest roots that Christianity was able to adapt to when it would enter the world stage. (Some of the books that she uses for research are included in the introduction, and I’m definitely going to have to track a few of them down.)
I absolutely adored this book, and I am thrilled to finally see Cleopatra Selene getting treated with just as much respect as her illustrious mother. Ms. Dray’s meticulous research has crafted a multi-dimensional world easy to get lost in, which is why I devoured the book in one sitting! Since this is the first novel in a trilogy, I am eagerly awaiting book two to see just how far some of the ripples in this book will spread.

Candace’s Book Blog

This book was really good. The story was good, the characters were good, the writing was good, the history was fascinating... I think you get the point. So let me go into detail a bit more.

I love historical fiction books but I tend to not pick them up as fast because they are heavy reading. With all my interruptions with kids I find it's more difficult to follow the story. Not this one! This book was easy to fly through and easy to follow. There were a lot of side characters and historical figures mentioned, but I never found myself getting confused at all. I think maybe I did have a bit of a hard time with all the children, keeping them straight as to who was who's child since there were a lot of half siblings, but it was never really a big issue for me. This sort of felt like a mix of adult and young adult. Although the character were young adult I think the history made it feel more adult? I'm not sure, but I thought it was a perfect mixture while still being appropriate for young adult readers.

The author threw magic realism into the story and it was great! It felt perfect and added to the story quite a lot. I think those that are less anxious to read historical fiction will enjoy this one because of how it was done.

I really liked Selene. She felt real to me. She had her faults and her weaknesses but she was smart and she watched everyone around her to try to shape things not only to her own advantage, but the advantage of Isiac worshipers, Egyptians and her family. She was quite clever even though no one seemed to see it at first- including herself.

The other characters were brilliant as well. All of the children each had their own personalities, though not all were very important or portrayed much in the story. The brothers to Selene were very real and I really could connect with them and understand their thoughts and reasoning's. I found Augustus was brilliantly done by the author. His thoughts, motivations and life were so clear. I could see and understand his personality perfectly. Stephanie really was brilliant in her character development.

The history was laid out quite well also. We got the pieces we needed for the story with the bits of back info as needed, but were never inundated with information that just went over our heads. I found myself so interested in what I did learn that I'm anxious to find many more books about this time period, culture and family. I have a couple books that I've put off reading that I'm anxious to read now, so this book has definitely inspired me.
I am very excited for the next book, Song of the Nile!

I give this one 5/5 moons.

Vanessa Barger of Slightly Skewed

I loved the book. I found it to be extremely well written and well researched. The characters, even those who did not appear often had depth and a history all their own. Small details, like the decorations for the Saturnalia festival and the Roman wedding ceremony dress and preparations had obviously been researched and added life to the story. For me, who has always had a fondness for ancient cultures, especially Egypt, it made the story that much better.

Over the course of the story, the reader watches as Seleste grows from a royal child into a strong, independent woman. She fights to protect her family, her people, her goddess, and herself. But it isn’t just about family, loyalty, faith or empowerment, though it is about those things. Its about learning who you are and what you are willing to do to achieve your dreams and protect those you love. And what you are willing to give up. In this, the author has done an excellent job. She could easily have made Seleste the perfect historical figure – kind, loving, determined and without any qualms about the things she had to do to survive, or the darker sides of her personality. Instead Mrs. Dray has given us the whole person: she worries about what she’s doing, she lies, she has a temper, has a crisis of faith, and makes mistakes.

Mrs. Dray’s novel kept me reading, captured me with beautiful detail and emotion and a plot rife with political intrique and self-discovery. I recieved the book on Monday, intending to read the first chapter and then put it aside until Christmas Break. Instead I couldn’t put the book down.

The book is excellent, although if the reader doesn’t share a love of ancient Egypt or Rome, they may find it boring in parts. The political intrigue in the book is easier to understand if you know the history involved. But that’s the only fault I can give it. I would recommend it to anyone. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for Stephanie Dray’s next book.

Visit Stephanie on the web-

1 comment:

Sky Purington said...

Congrat's on some fabulous reviews. WTG! Can't wait to read this one!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...