Pharaoh: Volume II of Kleopatra

Pharaoh: Volume II of Kleopatra by Karen Essex (2002) covers the years of Kleopatra's reign. Each section covers a different year of her reign, with a prelude piece on her final year included just ahead of each section.

With all of the material--the fighting, the romances with two of the most powerful men this world has ever seen, the murders, and the suicides--known, there certainly seems to be a lot of information for the foundation of a wonderful fictional tale.

Instead, I'm left disappointed and looking to find another piece of fiction about Cleopatra.

Besides an overall feeling of being underwhelmed, I thought the final sex scene between Kleopatra and Antony read as completely over-the-top and ridiculous until I read the ending, Kleopatra's death scene. The death went even beyond the last sex scene in terms of cheesiness, particularly the very last few lines of the book. And a poorly written ending ruins an entire book for this reader.

Since I don't think including the ending of a book in a blog posting is fair, here's just a portion of the sex scene to illustrate what I mean. Let me know if you agree or disagree with my thoughts.

Kindle Location 6784-6791:

Antony comes to her bed. She takes him in her arms and asks him if he will change his mind. We are past words and wars and schemes, he says. I am to die and you are to live, but which of us is facing the better prospect is known only to the gods. She sighs. Do not quote Socrates to silence me, she says. I will silence you one last time, he answers.

He pours himself over her and into her. They swim together, slick-skinned and silent, like dolphins at sea. His breathing is the most real thing she has heard all evening, every exhalation a nail pinning her to the bed. The more she sinks into the mattress the more she feels her desire rise up to meet him. This is desire's last stand. If she lives to be an old crone, she will never again open this way to a man. If she is forced to give herself to someone else, it will be a hollow act. The love that comes from deep inside her belongs to him alone.

I always found Cleopatra, the actual historical figure as opposed to the Kleopatra in Essex's books, fascinating. I can't say I found Kleopatra fascinating. This second volume read more as a soap opera than anything, and not a particularly engaging soap opera, at that.

My overall personal rating of Pharaoh: Volume II of Kleopatra is a C.


StephanieD said…
I think a new book is coming out in November about Cleopatra. The movie rights have already been sold and Angelina Jolie's set to play her. Maybe this one will be better?
Thanks for the tip. I'll have to look into that book. I'll probably skip the movie, though, because I'm not a Jolie fan. :(

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