Cleo is the Chosen One, chosen by the Goddess Isis to restore her power in Egypt by retrieving an important map. The story, which blends fantasy, horror and a quest adventure, is set in ancient Egypt in the time before Cleopatra becomes pharaoh. The author imagines the early teenage years of Cleopatra, creating a work of fiction while maintaining a degree of historical accuracy. Initially I wondered if the setting – the Pharaoh court in Alexandria – was a barrier to the enjoyment of the story for non historical fiction enthusiasts, but the world created is no more different to that created by J K Rowling or those in dystopian fiction: it is as rich and as exotic.
Threatened by her half-sisters, Pharaohs Berenice and Tryphena, Cleo flees to the Temple of Isis at Philae where she trains as a priestess. Eventually, she returns to her sisters’ opulent but brutal court in Alexandria, a ‘poisonous sink of intrigue and death’. Though she is apparently welcomed by Berenice and Tryphena, her life is in danger. With the help of Charm, her body slave, and young librarian Khai (‘all-round hot guy’!), she attempts to fulfil the demands of Isis. Cleo’s friendship with Charm, giggler and ‘Queen of Schemes’, and her love for Khai are at the heart of this story as is the absolute loyalty of her body slave. Charm is a very attractive character and provides humour in what is a serious but interesting read .
There is a glossary at the end of the book detailing characters, gods and places. Perhaps a little more historical background (other than what is in the text) and a map would be desirable.