When my novel about Cleopatra Selene's early/teen life came out, readers often asked me if I was writing a sequel. My answer was always an unequivocal, "Nope." But they wanted to know what happened to Selene after she set off to marry the King of Mauretania! Why wouldn't I continue her story?
My answer was always a bit convoluted, but I eventually settled on this: I write young adult fiction, which tends to focus on the emergence of self and identity. I was fascinated by what it must have been like for Selene to grow up under the shadow of such a famous and powerful mom and how she might've intellectually and emotionally come to terms with both the tragedy of her life--and the opportunity. The story of what happened to Selene after she left Rome didn't call to me in the same way. (Besides, Pompeii was knocking at the door. :-D).
But thank goodness the rest of Selene's life did call to fellow author, Stephanie Dray, whose third book in the trilogy of Selene's life releases today. I was honored to read this book before it went to press and I have to tell you, Daughters of the Nile, is a tremendously mesmerizing and moving read. It is more than worthy of the fascinating Princess of Egypt and Queen of Mauretania. Daughters concludes the series, so if you haven't read the first two, check them out--Lily of the Nile (of which the Kindle version is currently on sale) and Song of the Nile.
Seriously, go forth and read. Check out the excerpt below.
Below me, six black Egyptian cobras dance on their tails, swaying. I watch their scaled hoods spread wide like the uraeus on the crown of Egypt. Even from this height, I'm paralyzed by the sight of the asps, their forked tongues flickering out between deadly fangs. I don't notice that I'm gripping the balustrade until my knuckles have gone white, all my effort concentrated upon not swooning and falling to my death.
And I would swoon if I were not so filled with rage. Someone has arranged for this. Someone who knows what haunts me. Someone who wants to send me a message and make this occasion a moment of dread. My husband, the king must know it, for he calls down, "That's enough. We've seen enough of the snake charmer!"
There is commotion below, some upset at having displeased us. Then Chryssa hisses, "Who could think it a good idea to honor the daughter of Cleopatra by coaxing asps from baskets of figs?"
The story the world tells of my mother's suicide is that she cheated the emperor of his conquest by plunging her hand into a basket where a venomous serpent lay in wait. A legend only, some say, for the serpent was never found. But I was there. I brought her that basket. She was the one bitten but the poison lingers in my blood to this day. I can still remember the scent of figs in my nostrils, lush and sweet. The dark god Anubis was embroidered into the woven reeds of the basket, the weight of death heavy in my arms. I can still see my mother reach her hand into that basket, surrendering her life so that her children might go on without her. And I have gone on without her.
I have survived too much to be terrorized by the emperor's agents or whoever else is responsible for this.
If it is a message, a warning from my enemies, I have already allowed them too much of a victory by showing any reaction at all. So I adopt as serene a mask as possible. My daughter blinks her big blue eyes, seeing past my facade. "Are you frightened, Mother? They cannot bite us from there. The snakes are very far away."
I get my legs under me, bitterness on my tongue. "Oh, but they're never far enough away."