Tuesday, May 24, 2011

REVIEW: Cleopatra Confesses by Carolyn Meyer

From Amazon: "It is the first century B.C. Cleopatra, the third of the pharaoh's six children, is the one that her father has chosen to be the next queen of Egypt. But when King Ptolemy is forced into exile, Cleopatra is left alone to fend for herself in a palace rife with intrigue and murder. Smart, courageous, ambitious and sensuously beautiful, she possesses the charm to cause two of history's most famous leaders to fall in love with her. But as her cruel sisters plot to steal the throne, Cleopatra realizes there is only one person on whom she can rely--herself. "

In the beginning of this YA historical about the legendary Egyptian Queen, we meet Cleopatra as a 10 year old girl. She idolizes her father and is clearly his favorite. For this she earns the ire of her spoiled and vain older sisters Tryphaena and Bernike who have their eyes on the crown and view their father as an aging fool. When King Ptolemy loses the love of his people he flees Egypt leaving it deeply mired in debt and leaves Cleopatra to fend for herself against her sisters who have now installed themselves as Queens and Co-Rulers. Cleopatra grows into young womanhood amid much bloodshed as her father and sisters vie for the crown. When Cleopatra finally becomes Queen it is not as she hoped it would be. The starving people are fickle and the infighting continues as the brother she was forced to marry, Ptolemy XIII, turns against her. Help arrives from Rome in the form of Julius Caesar-the famous General who will be her great love.

For a YA historical I liked this one but there were a few things that bothered me. I realize though that this may be because I've read several Cleopatra non-fiction and historical fiction books that were aimed at adults so I know the story in detail. Because of this I think it actually hindered my enjoyment of the story a little bit because I knew too much going in. Also I recognize that crafting the story of Cleopatra from her girlhood up to the death of Caesar in less than 300 pages is no small feat and I thought Meyer accomplished this rather well.

I found it interesting that in the other Cleopatra books I've read I had never heard of Tryphaena. I always thought Bernice was the oldest sister. That is because the jury is still out on whether Cleopatra had two older sisters or whether the Tryphaena mentioned historically as co-ruling with Bernice was actually her mother. Also the author changes Bernice to Bernike here which was strange to me as I ended up pronouncing it in my head wrong throughout the story because of the spelling. Besides these minor questions the only other major problem here was the rushed ending. As I got closer to end of the book I was wondering how the author planned on fitting in the entire chapter of Cleopatra's history with Mark Antony and the end of her life in the 20 or so pages I had left. This was accomplished by placing that entire segment in a 5 page epilogue. The summation of the end of Cleopatra's days was well done, but I couldn't help thinking the book would have been better had it been extended an extra 50 pages or so to tell of this part of her life in more detail.

One huge positive about this book is that it starts when Cleopatra is 10 years old so we get to see her for half the book as a young girl. As there are few records that exist from this time I really liked that we got to see her in her younger years. Also Meyer paints Cleopatra as a beautiful, intelligent girl who is ostracized by the rest of her siblings but who loves Egypt whole-heartedly and wants what is best for her people. I really liked this characterization of Cleopatra. The story sticks pretty closely to what is known about her. I found the book to be a fun and entertaining look at the life of Egypt's last Pharoah. I would definitely recommend it to younger readers who want to know more about this fascinating Queen. Adults might get more out of Cleopatra: a Life by Stacy Schiff or Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George but still may want to give this one a try for a fun quick read.

Release date: June 7, 2011

I received this book through Simon & Schuster via Galley Grab. This review contains my honest thoughts on the book.


  1. Thanks for the comments on this one. I have been wanting to check it out. I always enjoyed Meyer's books.

  2. Hm, interesting. After reading Stephanie Dray's Lily of the Nile (abt Cleopatra's children), I've gotten back into Cleopatra and been curious abt this book. I might pass only because I'm not wild about YA but I appreciate the review!

  3. I think scholars generally believe now that (Cleopatra) Tryphaena is actually Cleopatra's (step?)mother, not her older sister. The Ptolemies were very fond of using the same handful of names over and over again--I know of an earlier Cleopatra who had two daughters who were also named Cleopatra! It doesn't help that they all killed and deposed each other frequently, so the numbers we give them don't help much. I love Meyer's books about the Tudor women. Have you read them? If so, how does this book compare to them?