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Hand of Isis by Jo Graham

Hand of Isis (edition 2009)

by Jo Graham

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2453046,947 (3.76)61
Title:Hand of Isis
Authors:Jo Graham
Info:Orbit (2009), Paperback, 528 pages
Collections:Read in 2012, Your library
Tags:fiction, historical fantasy, women's lives, siblings, ptolemaic egypt, cleopatra, julius caesar, marcus antonius, own

Work details

Hand of Isis by Jo Graham

Recently added byduowolf, NineLarks, galphin, shantedze, jpmariana, private library, Ancientgirl, ellen.w, Sethur
  1. 10
    Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw (KarenIrelandPhillips)
  2. 10
    Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran (fyrefly98)
    fyrefly98: Hand of Isis gives a unique perspective on Cleopatra's life while Cleopatra's Daughter focuses on the next generation, but both are well-crafted historical fiction that do an excellent job of bringing the period and the people to life.
  3. 10
    The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George (_Zoe_)
  4. 00
    Stealing Fire by Jo Graham (Kegsoccer)

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» See also 61 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
  lencicki | Aug 28, 2013 |
  orbitbooks | May 9, 2013 |
I'm struggling to find the words to review this book, as much as I liked it. It's a reimagining of Cleopatra's life, a life shared with two half-sisters, Charmian (the narrator of the story) and Isar, who share her lessons and become her handmaidens and later on run her household and support her in running Egypt. As teenagers they turn to Isis and find themselves close to different aspects of the goddess. The connection to Isis, as well as Charmian's mystical sense of destiny driven by their previous lives drives them to work towards Cleopatra becoming the Pharaoh, and all that follows.

I felt this was a fresh look at Cleopatra that did something clever and out of the ordinary in an interesting way, and I really enjoyed reading it. ( )
  mari_reads | Jan 1, 2013 |
I definitely had my doubts about this book when I saw the cover. But, like the old saying goes, you can't judge a book by its cover.

Told from the point of view of Charmian, the half-sister and handmaiden to none other than Cleopatra, Hand of Isis is a wonderful tale about the last Pharaoh of Egypt. The way Jo Graham handles the character of Cleopatra is interesting because she shows the Egyptian side of the story, not the Roman side, which maligned her. In this story, Cleopatra is very sympathetic and wants nothing more than to take care of her beloved Egypt, no matter what the cost to herself. This dedication to her country sets her up for her ultimately tragic ending.

This book is a combination of historical and fantasy fiction, but I can guarantee you'll learn more about Egyptian history reading this than from any history textbook. Jo Graham's dedication to the details of ancient Egyptian and Roman life is truly admirable. So if you're looking for an historically accurate, yet entertaining novel, you will love Hand of Isis. ( )
  carrieslager | May 11, 2012 |
Main characters in the book:
Charmain: daughter of Pharaoh Ptolemy Auletes. She is the half sister of Cleopatra and Iras. She narrates the story beautifully from the Halls of Amenti (Egyptian land of the dead aka Uttermost West) after just having killed herself (Alexander has just been sacked by Octavian's military and has determined that Cleopatra, Iras and Charmain will all be executed). It is in the Halls of Amenti that Charmian tells her life's story so that she might be aptly judged (did she life a life worthy enough for access to the next world). Her mother was a slave. And, as such, so is she. She grows up training with Cleopatra and Iras. Cleopatra, though a princess, has been mostly forgotten by her father the Pharaoh (she has sisters and a brother who are ahead of her in line to the throne). The sisters, including Charmain, believe themselves to be the hands of Isis. Charmain lives a life of devotion to Isis and to Cleopatra (as her handmaiden). She is a gifted seer (though she plays the part down) and cannot only see the future (e.g. Caesar's murder) but also remember moments from her past lives (she was a general under Alexander the Great). Her devotion to Isis and Cleopatra solidify how she relates to men (men do not come between her religion/work, and, as such, she develops a very practical attitude toward men and sex: they are a means to an end). None the less her love for the men in her life (Agrippa and Emrys) is beautifully genuine. In the Halls of Amenti, after final judgement by the gods has been rendered, she is given the choice to move on (to the next life... something like heaven) or go back and assume a role on earth that could lead to her helping the children (Cleopatra's children were taken by Octavian for purposes of parading them in the Triumph March in front of Roman throngs. It was assumed that they would be executed after they had exceeded their usefulness). The final scene in the book is Charmain (now an 8 year old girl from a poor Roman family) conversing with Agrippa at the Pantheon (which he built). In the scene it is just the two of them staring at a statue of Isis. Agrippa is still grieving about how things ended in the siege of Alexandra though 8 years had passed (he killed Cleopatra's heir to the throne, stood silently while Octavian administered his death sentenced to the sisters, failed to help Charmain at the 11th hour, and, presumably, was silent while Cleopatra's youngest children were marched through Rome). Charmain (as the 8 year old) gives Agrippa advice on how to alleviate (or make amends for) his suffering (and presumably help Cleopatra's children). Her advice is mysteriously spot on. Agrippa keeps searching her face. And then he sees who the 8 year old really is (Charmain). He says "I thought at first you were just a little girl... [but] I think you are the Hand of Isis."

Cleopatra VII Philopater: Last ruling Pharaoh of Egypt, daughter of Ptolemy XII Auletes. She ruled from 51 BCE to 30 BCE. She is characterized as a wise ruler and utterly devoted to Egypt and her people. This story portrays her as a practical ruler who makes all decisions (including ones for love) based on the political outcome. She comes off as a loving, involved mother and good friend/sister You cannot but love her in this story.

Iras: She is Charmain's and Cleopatra's half sister and life-long friend.

Dion: Charmain's best friend in the book. Charmain and he share Emrys (oddly, the relationship between the three of them seems perfectly natural and fulfilling).

Gaius Julius Caesar: Cleopatra's first political love (eventually they do actually love each other). He father's her first child. He and Charmain knew each other in another life (he was Alexander the Great and she was his general). He is killed in 44 BCE. His death is the beginning of the end of Cleopatra's rule.

Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa: Officer Agrippa and Charmain meet and fall in love. He eventually fathers her only child. They connect as they both have an ability to "see" things. He goes off to war. Letters are sent by both but never delivered. The lack of communication results in mistrust. Agrippa proposes to Charmain but under terms she cannot live with and so they part. He eventually rises to general in the Roman military (a genius at war). He routes Marcus Antonius' military and ultimately march to Alexander. He kills (or orders the killing) of Cleopatra's oldest son (and heir to the throne). He stands by and watches as Octavian sentences Charmain (and her sisters) to their death. He continues to grieve over his actions long after Charmain has died. He builds the Parthenon (honoring many known gods including Isis).

Emrys: Love interest to Charmain and Dion. He survives 20 years of service in the Roman cavalry. He is eventually killed by Romans, while defending Alexander.

Marcus Antonius: He fathered 3 children with Cleopatra. He comes off as somewhat ineffective military leader. He blunders by sending his will to Rome, where it is intercepted by Octavian (the will gives all of his territory (much of the Eastern Roman Empire) to his children -- Egyptians -- which doesn't go over very well. War is declared by Octavian. Marcus' heart just wasn't in it in the end (was more interested in being a good husband and father). His lack of execution in the final campaigns results in the end of Egypt (as a stand-alone country). When it becomes inevitable that he will lose the war he commits suicide. The story makes it sound as if a miscommunication between he and Cleopatra are why he commits suicide (he thinks she is to be executed). He dies in 30 BCE.

Isis: Originally an Egyptian mother goddess, by the Hellenistic period Isis had become a universal goddess of compassion with many aspects, including but not limited to the Queen of the Dead, the Mother of the World, the Queen of the Seas (Isis Pelagia), and the Goddess of Love.

Octavian (Gaius Octavius Thurinus, Emperor Augustus): Caesar's great-nephew. With Antonius and Lepidus he was a member of the Second Triumvirate. He ruled alone after Antonius' death. He died in 14 CE.

Children of Cleopatra:
* Cleopatra Selene: daughter of Cleopatra and Marcus Antonius (twin to Helios). Lived 40 BCE to 6 BCE. She reigned as Queen of Numidia from 25 BCE until she died.
* Alexander Helios: son of Cleopatra and Marcus Antonius (twin to Selene). Lived 40 BCE to ~24 BCE. It was suspected that he was poisoned.
* Ptolemy Caesarion (Ptolemy XIV): son of Cleopatra and Caesar. He ruled as Pharaoh jointly with his mother from 44 BCE to 30 BCE. He was killed during the siege of Alexander.
* Ptolemy Philadelphos: son of Cleopatra and Marcus Antonius. He was born in 36 BCE and died sometimes before 20 BCE. It was suspected he was poisoned. ( )
  DaddySchool | Mar 30, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
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The city of Alexandria is teacher, apex of Panhellenism, and in all fields of knowledge and arts the wisest. -- C P Cavafy
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In twilight I approached the doors, and in twilight they stood open for me.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316068020, Paperback)

Following her acclaimed debut, Jo Graham returns to the ancient world with a novel that will captivate lovers of fantasy, history and romance.

Set in Ancient Egypt, Hand of Isis is the story of Charmian, a handmaiden, and her two sisters. It is a novel of lovers who transcend death, of gods who meddle in mortal affairs, and of women who guide empires.

Praise for Black Ships

"Graham re-creates a vivid picture of the ancient world, a mysterious place in which gods and goddesses speak to their chosen."--- Library Journal (starred review)

"A first-class, very readable novel." --- Booklist (starred review)

"A refreshingly different approach to a legend we only thought we knew." --- Locus

"Graham's thorough, detailed tale of ancient Greece is one that fans of that period are bound to love." --- Romantic Times

"A dazzling debut novel reimagines the Aeneid and restores life to a fantasy land that actually was." --- Scifi.com

"A bittersweet saga with enough action, romance, and intrigue to entertain and enthrall." --- Romance Reviews Today

"Graham...has packed the novel with exquisite detail, bringing to life a time long gone." --- The St. Petersburg Times

"Inspired and relentlessly entertaining...an auspicious debut." --- Realms of Fantasy

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:01 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Set in Ancient Egypt, "Hand of Isis" is the story of Charmian, a handmaiden to Cleopatra and devotee of Isis, and her two sisters. It is a novel of lovers who transcend death, of gods who meddle in mortal affairs, and of women who guide empires.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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Orbit Books

Two editions of this book were published by Orbit Books.

Editions: 0316068020, 0316068012

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