Monday 4 May 2015

Cleo by Lucy Coats

review by Maryom 

When her beloved mother dies following a mysterious 'falling down the stairs' accident, Cleopatra find her place at the Egyptian court full of danger. With their father the Pharaoh away dancing attendance on Caesar in Rome, Cleo's half-sisters Tryphena and Berenice have their eyes on the throne, fearing for her life, Cleo runs away and finds sanctuary at the temple of the goddess Isis in Philae. Here she lives in anonymity as just another acolyte training in the ways of the goddess and hoping to become a priestess one day, but Isis had marked Cleo out as someone special from her birth, and after four years she is Chosen by the goddess for a special task. Isis's power is failing and to restore it Cleo must find a secret map hidden in the Royal library in Alexandria. Going back there means Cleo risking the malice of her sisters but, on the plus side, maybe, just maybe, she can meet again with Khai, the boy-librarian who has haunted her dreams since she left.

Cleo is a thrilling tale full of danger, friendship and budding romance set against the backdrop of Ancient Egypt. Re-telling the story of Cleopatra before she burst onto history's stage, it may not be absolutely historically accurate - nothing is known at all of Cleopatra's early life - but it's an engaging, fun read which brings people and places vividly to life.
From the first page Cleo grabs the reader's sympathy and admiration. The story opens with her battling against her feelings  - full of grief, but trying to be brave and show no emotion as her mother dies watched over by the royal court. Not only is showing emotion frowned upon but at this perilous time, Cleo needs to keep her judgement clear and her wits about her to evade her sisters' machinations - and she does. These same qualities stand her in good stead when she's sent back to Alexandria on the goddess's mission. Her devotion to Charm, her slave-girl become friend, and the librarian-spy Khai again win the reader's approval and set her apart from her arrogant sisters with their careless attitude to the life of others. At the same time, she's very much a teenager, with teenage attitude - particularly towards her horrible sisters whom she labels the 'Evil Sow' sisters, but at times towards Isis who marks her out for a special task but then abandons her when godly intervention would be helpful.
This compelling story unfolds against a background of colour and life - I loved the details of foodstuffs, the bustling life of the marketplace, the clothing and jewels, that all helped bring history to life in a totally 'unstuffy' way.
Taken together Cleo is a great mix of history, friendship, adventure and romance that I just loved. So in a way I'm rather glad that her story isn't brought to a final conclusion in this book but carries on in Cleo Chosen.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Orchard Books
Genre - historical adventure, teen/YA

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