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Pharaoh by Karen Essex: A Book Review

Pharaoh
Author: Karen Essex
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: 2009
Pages: 416
Source: My State Public Library
Synopsis: Following on from 'Kleopatra', the glittering epic of Egypt's queen continues as she allies herself with Anthony and begins a love story that immortalizes her as one of history's greatest political players and most tragic heroines.

     My Review: Pharaoh picks up where Kleopatra left off. The story follows Kleopatra's exile to her death. Kleopatra realizes that she must befriend the Romans in order to regain her throne and arranges a meeting with Julius Caesar. The two form an alliance to help strengthen ties between Egypt and Rome. The novel shows Kleopatra not as a great seducer to two powerful Roman men, but also a strong and capable ruler.

    I loved Kleopatra’s portrayal in this novel. She sacrifices love for her duty as a queen. She is confident and ambitious. She dreams of a Graeco-Roman alliance with Alexandria as its capital. While Kleopatra has many loves in her life, her true love is Antony. Her relationship with Antony was very moving. In the last year of her reign, she tries to save Antony from his depression and tries to restore their relationship from their earlier days. While they do not have the passion from when they first begin their relationship, it is clear that they love each other deeply and relis on the other. Thus, their relationship was tragic and the reader wishes that things had ended up differently.

   Overall, this novel is about a couple trying to renew their relationship amidst their imminent doom. Pharaoh follows two storylines, from when Kleopatra is in exile and in Kleopatra’s final reign as she tries to restore her relationship with Antony. I thought the characters were very complex. The only thing I did not like about Pharaoh was that I thought the ending was a little rushed. Still, the story was very similar to Margaret George's Memoirs of Cleopatra, and I thought the novel came close to understand Kleopatra’s thoughts and motives. Pharaoh shows Kleopatra as an adept female ruler and has won the love of her subjects. Karen Essex’s duology of the infamous pharaoh is a series that shouldn’t be missed by fans of Kleopatra.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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