Many know the story of Cleopatra, but few know of her daughter, Cleopatra Selene, whose wholly dark life is captured in Vicky Alvear Shecter’s Cleopatra’s Moon. A daughter of Egypt and Rome, Cleopatra Selene faces the world after the fall of her parents, the collapse of her kingdom and her capture and confinement (along with her brothers) in the Emperor Octavianus’ palace. She grows up as a prisoner of Rome, but from the moment she leaves Egyptian soil, her mind never strays far from her chosen fate: to reclaim Egypt in place of her powerful queen mother.
Shecter’s first novel mixes fact and fiction but never shies away from the most tragic moments of Cleopatra Selene’s life. The world seems to fall apart around her as she loses all that she loves in her unfaltering quest to become the ruling force she is destined to be. After years trapped in the walls of Rome, she seeks followers of Isis to help her but discovers the gods are not on her side. Her next step is to forge an alliance to return her to her rightful place as queen, and her future hangs in the balance as she must decide between Marcellus, the son of her enemy, and Juba, the king of her dreams. Her choice just might break her heart.
While the book is mostly focused on Cleopatra Selene’s persistent efforts to reclaim her throne, one main question reappears throughout: Can a person choose his or her own fate? Cleopatra Selene and Juba have one main difference: She fights the Fates every step of the way while Stoic Juba accepts his lot and moves on with his life. While Cleopatra Selene is never able to come to a conclusion about her role in her own fate, Cleopatra’s Moon just might get some readers thinking.
Shecter’s novel has magic, romance and the mystique of Egyptian royalty, as well as the intrigue of fact vs. fiction. It also challenges its characters, and possibly its readers, to question life, destiny and ironclad beliefs. Cleopatra’s Moon might be a story of a queen, but it is also the story of a girl just figuring out where she stands in the world.