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Cleopatra's Shadows by Emily Holleman
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Cleopatra's Shadows

by Emily Holleman

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I knew that Cleopatra had two sisters, but this novel written from the perspectives of her older sister Bernice and her younger sister Arsinoe was a unique treat. Cleopatra is a off-stage character for the majority of the novel and instead the focus is on Bernice, who has usurped her father Ptolemy's throne and must now defend Egypt against a Roman-backed invasion, and Arsinoe, who must negotiate Bernice's treacherous court at a young age. An interesting read, although I would not recommend it to anyone who does not possess an interest in Ancient Egypt. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Feb 7, 2016 |
The story alternates narrators between Arsine, the younger sister, and Berenice, the older sister who seizes the pharaoh's crown. Berenice must struggle to rule her fickle kingdom as she frets that her father will return from Rome with an army to remove her.

Arsine struggles with the heartbreak of being the unwanted daughter. Both her mother and her father have deserted her and left her at Berenice's mercy. She is a very strong minded young girl and quickly became my favourite character.

There is nothing in the back of the book to indicate this is the start of a series, however the story itself makes me think there is more to come. If there is I will be pleased to read it to find out what happens to these sisters in the next instalment. ( )
  Roro8 | Jan 14, 2016 |
In alternating chapters Berenice (King Ptolemy’s daughter from his sister wife Tryphaena) and Arsinoe (her young half-sister by his concubine) tell their stories.

Berenice has harbored an intense hatred and thirst for revenge on her father for turning his back on her mother, siring children with his concubine, and forgetting all about her. With the help of her mother she orchestrates a coup, wresting the Alexandrian throne from the King, forcing him to flee with his favorite daughter Cleopatra.

Arsinoe was a young girl of 8, very close with her older sister Cleopatra and extremely naive. When her deposed father and sister sailed away and left her behind she was forced to grow up, depending on her own strengths for the first time in her life.

Both Berenice and Arsinoe face many difficulties in the changed world in which they find themselves. Both have eunuchs who rule their lives, both dislike their mothers, both feel alone and abandoned, and both find hidden strengths which help them combat the disorder of a changed kingdom while growing up without a parental hand.

“Cleopatra’s Shadows” is supposed to be based on Arsinoe, someone the historical record has largely ignored. However, despite strengths she sometimes showed, most of the book was filled with depictions of her strange dreams, which could easily have been left out of the narrative. I found them to be superfluous, and wish it had focused more on her and Cleopatra as the title intimates. I actually found myself drawn more to Berenice and her lonely search for love.

Recommended for Adults.

Book review blog link: https://shouldireaditornot.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/cleopatras-shadow-emily-holleman/ ( )
  sunshinealma | Jan 10, 2016 |
Book Review & Giveaway: I became fascinated with everything about ancient Egyptian history when I was in about the fifth grade. I have no idea what sparked my interest but I could not read enough about it. Most of us have read about Cleopatra in school if nowhere else, but most of what we learn has a very set pattern to it. What about her family? I may have read a line here or there about them but the history I learned seemed to have shuttled them off as unimportant in comparison. When I read the publisher’s description of Emily Holleman’s debut novel, Cleopatra’s Shadows, I was once again fascinated. Ms. Holleman did extensive research to dig into the family relationships and the parts of Cleopatra’s life that aren’t commonly known, and she makes it come alive on the page. If you like books about family relationships, women, or dangerous court intrigue then you’ll want to check out the rest of our review for Cleopatra’s Shadows. And someone is going to win a copy, so be sure to enter our giveaway at http://popcornreads.com/?p=8778 ( )
  PopcornReads | Dec 16, 2015 |
An entertaining story about Cleopatra's younger sister, Arsinoe and and their half-sister Berenice. When Berenice gains control of the throne in Egypt, Cleopatra flees with their father, leaving Arsinoe behind. Arsinoe lives each day under the threat of death at the command of Berenice. When she is suddenly forced to survive outside the palace, Arsinoe begins to question her loyalty to Cleopatra, the beloved sister who abandoned her. Alternating with Arsinoe's story is that of Berenice who must balance her responsibilities as ruler of Egypt with her obligation to her dying mother whose determination for revenge was the catalyst for Berenice's rise to power.

Chapters alternate Arsinoe's and Berenice's stories, showing the struggle each woman faces as they try to adapt and survive. The characters are well-drawn, even if some of the reasons for certain actions are unclear. The supporting characters are less clear, and there are a few obvious holes in the story. Overall, it's worth a read for a different perspective on the Cleopatra story with Cleopatra playing a minor role.

Note: this review is based on an ARC from the publisher ( )
  astraplain | Dec 6, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316382981, Hardcover)

Page-turning historical fiction that reimagines the beginnings of Cleopatra's epic saga through the eyes of her younger sister.

Before Caesar and the carpet, before Antony and Actium, before Octavian and the asp, there was Arsinoe.

Abandoned by her beloved Cleopatra and an indifferent father, young Arsinoe must fight for her survival in the bloodthirsty royal court when her half-sister Berenice seizes Egypt's throne. Even as the quick-witted girl wins Berenice's favor, a new specter haunts her days-dark dreams that have a habit of coming true.

To survive, she escapes the palace for the war-torn streets of Alexandria. Meanwhile, Berenice confronts her own demons as she fights to maintain power. When their deposed father Ptolemy marches on the city with a Roman army, both daughters must decide where their allegiances truly lie, and Arsinoe grapples with the truth, that the only way to survive her dynasty is to rule it.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 09 Jul 2015 08:05:26 -0400)

Reimagines the beginnings of Cleopatra's epic saga through the eyes of her younger sister. Reading-group guide available. Abandoned by her beloved sister Cleopatra and an indifferent father, young Arsinoe must fight for her survival in the bloodthirsty royal court when her half-sister Berenice seizes Egypt's throne. To survive, she escapes the palace for the war-torn streets of Alexandria. When their deposed father Ptolemy marches on the city with a Roman army, both daughters must decide where their allegiances truly lie, and Arsinoe grapples with the truth: that the only way to survive her dynasty is to rule it.… (more)

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