Cleopatra’s Shadows by Emily Holleman


Abandoned by her beloved older sister Cleopatra and an indifferent father, Arsinoe, a young Egyptian princess, must fight for survival in the bloodthirsty royal court after her half-sister Berenice seizes power.

But despite using her quick-wits to win Berenice’s favour, Arsinoe struggles to establish herself in a uncertain new world, one that carries her from the conspiratorial dangers of the palace, to the streets of war-torn Alexandria.

Meanwhile, her other sister, the usurper Berenice, has her own demons to confront – her cruel, flagging mother, a pair of fickle husbands, and the ever-present threat that her father will return from exile-as she fights to hold the throne as the first queen of Egypt in a thousand years.


My thoughts

I love anything to do with ancient Egypt and Cleopatra’s Shadow’s a historical novel by Emily Holman fits the bill perfectly.

Holman envisions and explores what life would have been like for Cleopatra’s half-sisters, Berenice and Arsinoe, when their father Ptolemy and Cleopatra, already being groomed to become queen leave for Rome.

Half-sister, Berenice seizes the throne and Arsinoe’s life is complicated by her love for Cleopatra and her need to be loyal to the throne as this is key to her survival.

The characters were well written and believable, Holman brings the characters to life and you feel as if this all took place yesterday the story is so engrossing.

Arsinoe is a sweet girl, who is suddenly faced with the reality that she could be murdered any day at the whim of her sister Berenice . Berenice is resentful of the way she and her mother had fallen from Ptolomey’s favour and his new wife Cleopatra’s mother takes over. Berenice as eldest feels she should be heir to the throne and is suitably spiteful and nasty.

The historical information is well researched and Holeman’s clever writing brings to life these long gone people.

I found myself routing for Arsinoe she really is a character you can empathise with, a victim of the circumstances of her birth and not of her own making.

However, I also felt a lot a sympathy or the Usurper Berenice, she herself had done nothing to anger her father and it does show that in Ancient times the pharaoh’s whims really could ruin the lives of those closest to him. This story shed’s a little light on a period at the end of the reign of the Pharaohs in Egypt.


As they Egyptians wished to live forever in a way they do as they always prophesised  ‘To speak the name of the dead is to have them live again’

And if that is true Berenice and Arsinone will live for all time.

I gave this 4 out of 5*

About Andrea Pryke

I have been collecting Marilyn Monroe items since 1990 and the collection includes around 400 books, as well as films, documentaries, dolls, records and all sorts of other items
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