Tag Archives: Greek

Review: The Battle of The Labyrinth (Percy Jackson & The Olympians #4) by Rick Riordan

The Battle of the Labyrinth

by Rick Riordan

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #4

Source: Purchased

Book Summary:

Percy Jackson isn’t expecting freshman orientation to be any fun. But when a mysterious mortal acquaintance appears on campus, followed by demon cheerleaders, things quickly move from bad to worse.
In this fourth installment of the blockbuster series, time is running out as war between the Olympians and the evil Titan lord Kronos draws near. Even the safe haven of Camp Half-Blood grows more vulnerable by the minute as Kronos’s army prepares to invade its once impenetrable borders. To stop the invasion, Percy and his demigod friends must set out on a quest through the Labyrinth – a sprawling underground world with stunning surprises at every turn.

book thoughts

The book opens perfectly, with picked up threads and demon cheerleaders (but PLEASE, fantasy writers everywhere, I implore you, can I kindly get a portrayal of the Goddess Hecate that is NOT negative? Goddess of Magic and Queen of Witches need not automatically equal “bad guy”.)

*rant over. we now return to your regularly scheduled review*

[Edit: Since writing this review, I’ve read subsequent Riordan books in which Hecate gets a proper representation. Yay!]

 
Then we get to camp half blood, and THIS happens:

“You are okay?” he asked. “Not eaten by monsters?”
“Not even a little bit.” I showed him that I still had both arms and both legs, and Tyson clapped happily.
“Yay!” he said. “Now we can eat peanut butter sandwiches and ride fish ponies! We can fight monsters and see Annabeth and make things go BOOM!”
I hoped he didn’t mean all at the same time, but I told him absolutely, we’d have a lot of fun this summer.”

TYSON! Tyson is amazing. Possibly even as amazing as fish ponies.

We get to go into the Labyrinth! I want one. Okay, so it’s super-dangerous, full of monsters, nearly impossible to navigate and makes you go crazy? So what! It connects the whole country and has crazy adventures around every corner.

Annabeth finally gets to lead a quest! Against tradition, she chooses three, not two companions. Percy, Tyson and Grover. Tyson and Grover are both kind of scared of each other, which I found rather adorable. Inevitably they have to learn to work together and mutual respect develops, and it is a nice process to watch unfold. It felt like everyone really grew in this installment. Especially Grover.

Nico is freaking amazing. He got such a raw deal, but he’s so likable and such a bad-ass. I love how much of a presence he has in this book, his personal story-arc. Awesomeness.

Things are rather frenzied (in a good way!) in the Labyrinth. More Gods are met (excellent!), monsters are fought, volcanoes explode…oops, getting ahead of myself. It is neat how they go in and out of the Labyrinth as it transects the country. And eventually they go back in with…

Rachel: You’re a half-blood, too?
Annabeth: Shhh! Just announce it to the world, how about?
Rachel: Okay. Hey, everybody! These two aren’t human! They’re half Greek god!

(Naturally, in NYC, no one bats an eyelash.)

Rachel is great. A mortal who holds her own, and is just an intriguing character in herself. She bothers me as a potential love interest, and the fact that she and Annabeth don’t get along (while understandable) and that her presence causes friction between Percy and Annabeth (also understandable) makes me sad. I hated to see Percy and Annabeth at odds.

The ending was intense. Really sets the stage for what’s to come.

5paperhearts


Book Tour: Prophecy of the Most Beautiful (Oracle of Delphi #1) Guest Post + Giveaway!

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Prophecy of the Most Beautiful 
(Oracle of Delphi #1)
by Diantha Jones 
Release Date: 03/01/12

She has a destiny so great that even the gods fear her.

Constant hallucinations and the frequent conversations with the voices in her head, have earned eighteen-year-old Chloe Clever the not-so-coveted title of “Whack Job” in her home town of Adel, Georgia. Fed up with prescription meds and therapists, she wishes for a life where she is destined to be more than the butt of everyone’s jokes and mockery.

Be careful what you wish for has never rung more true.

After a vicious attack and learning that her favorite rockstar is an Olympian god, she is thrust into her new life as the Oracle of Delphi, the prophesier of the future. Setting out to fulfill the prophecy she has been given, Chloe learns of how great she is to become, all the while fighting mythical monsters and trying to outwit the ever-cunning Greek gods who harbor secrets of their own. While on a mission to discover the Most Beautiful, she strives to uncover the mysteries of the demigod Prince who has sworn to protect her with his life…and threatens to win her heart in the process.

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Wrangling the Myths: How I Did It

 

I didn’t really. Wrangle the myths, that is.

 

Greek mythology is so massive, it would take a lifetime to learn everything. Even then, I bet there’d be something you missed. It’s an impossible thing to take on. I’ve studied the myths for the past four years and still feel like a fish out of water at times. There’s just so much of it, so many interpretations, that in the end it all boils down to which tall tale you choose to believe.

 

When researching the myths for my Oracle of Delphi series, I started with…duh, the Oracle. That was easy enough, I guess. Then I moved on to the Olympians. That went well too…at first. Then I realized there was so much more to the big twelve than I had ever known. They are each the god of at least ten different things. They’ve also got a beast or two that is attributed to them, plus plants and other symbols. And let’s not start with the love interests! Out of control, I tell you.

 

But I didn’t stop there. To understand the ways of the Olympians, I had to also study the Titans (Kronos, Rhea, Hyperion, etc.) and the gods of the Cosmos (Uranus, Gaia, Nyx, etc.). Then came the myths themselves. My favorite is the story of Cupid and Psyche and how their romance came to be. But there are other cool myths as well, such as the quest of Jason & the Argonauts, and the twelve labors of Hercules, both which are important to the Oracle of Delphi series.

 

Then there are all of the minor gods and demigods who played major roles in Greek mythology. Really ya’ll…it’s a lot, but not for a moment have I ever felt bored with it. It’s all such exciting stuff! Each time I open one of my books or bring up a website, I’m excited wondering what new, amazing myth I’m going to discover. So have I conquered the Greek myths? Not even close. But I’m sure having a blast trying.

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About the Author

diantha jones Diantha Jones was born the day thousands of turkeys sacrificed their lives to fill millions of American bellies on November 22 which also happened to be Thanksgiving Day (Her mother says she owes her a turkey). She is a Journalism graduate who wants to be a career novelist (of books, not Facebook posts). When not writing or working, she is reading on her Nook, being hypnotized by Netflix or on a mission to procure french fries.

The Oracle of Delphi fantasy series is her first series. She is also the author of Mythos: Stories from Olympus, a companion series, and there is another fantasy series in the works. She also writes (new) adult fantasy/paranormal romance under the name A. Star.

 

Author Links:

Website Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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Review: Daughter of Chaos by Jen McConnel

Daughter of Chaos

by Jen McConnel

Genre: YA Paranormal

Series: Red Magic #1

Source: Purchased

Book Summary:

Witches must choose the path they will follow, and Darlena Agara is no exception. She’s been putting it off long enough, and in her case, ignoring it has not made it go away. In a moment of frustration, Darlena chooses to follow Red Magic, figuring she had outsmarted the powers that be, since there’s no such thing as Red Magic. But alas, Darlena’s wrong (again) and she becomes a newly declared Red Witch.

Her friends are shocked and her parents horrified by the choice Darlena has made. As a Red Witch, she now governs one third of the world’s chaos. She is the walking personification of pandemonium, turmoil, and bedlam, just as the patrons of Red Magic would have it to be.

But Darlena believes there must be more to Red Magic than chaos and destruction, and she sets out on a journey to achieve balance. Only doing so puts her at odds with the dark goddess Hecate, who simply will not allow Darlena to quit. She encourages Darlena to embrace who and what she is and to leave good magic to the good witches. If only Darlena could, life would be simple, and she would not be the Daughter of Chaos.

DAUGHTER OF CHAOS is the first in a YA paranormal trilogy.

book thoughts

“Slowly, I raised my eyes, sweeping my gaze up her inky black robes that shimmered like water, past the blood-red stone dangling from her throat, and up to her golden eyes. They weren’t human, but from what I remembered of the myths we studied at school, Hecate had never valued humanity. Her eyes were the eyes of a night predator—an owl or fox—and they held me spellbound.

“Darlena. Darlena, I have been aware of you for some time now.” Her words came slowly, creaking into existence and lingering. I was frozen with fear. “Child, you stand at the brink. A choice must be made.”

I had incredibly high expectations for this book and I am happy to report that it surpassed all of them. Here is well-written witchy fiction jam-packed full of accurate mythology, but with its own intriguing twists. As a Wiccan myself, I adored how magic, gods and goddesses, seasonal rituals, etc. were woven in with everyday life. It all just felt so normal but at the same time…well, magical. Witches are portrayed as real people, with lives and jobs and families, who just happen to have awesome powers.

The main character, Darlena, experiences tons of growth. She is slightly frustrating at first (I imagine that was intentional). A bit of a rebel without a cause, perhaps. But she handles the obstacles her declaration of red magic throws at her with more strength than she knew she had, and it is highly satisfying to watch her come into her own. I liked that Darlena’s best friend, the Black Witch Rochelle, and Darlena’s ex-boyfriend, the White Witch Justin, feel like authentic characters, but at the same time represent the struggle Darlena feels within herself. The romance between Darlena and Justin was sweet and never overpowering. It made sense, and though Darlena’s reactions were frustrating at times, I still felt for her, and could see why she cared for Justin, since he was so supportive and really non-judgemental for a White Witch (which to me is how a White Witch should be).

Darlena’s parents play an active role in her life! It is clear that once a witch declares, she is essentially an adult, so while Darlena’s parents give her space, they are still involved and invested in her, something we don’t always see in YA. Darlena’s mother especially feels like the mortal embodiment of her patron, the mother-goddesses Demeter, swearing to help her daughter no matter what.

Gods and Goddesses abound in this book. I loved it. Their portrayal is at once very human and accurate to their existing mythologies. Hats off to the author for that! I was disappointed that once again, my own patron goddess, Hecate, was cast in a negative light, but it worked for the story and since it’s s trilogy, who knows, she may yet be redeemed. It didn’t stop me from enjoying the book. We do get a sympathetic portrayal of Hades that I found incredibly touching. We even see the vulnerable side of Aphrodite. The gods and goddesses were definitely one of the things I loved best about this book, especially when they were helping teach Darlena magic. The magic itself was excellently done. Much of it felt authentic to the way magic is practiced today, but with the author’s own unique flourishes.

The other thing I loved was the way magic, even red magic, chaotic as it may be, was portrayed as neither good nor evil. Darlena is determined to use red magic for good and watching her go about achieving that propels the story forward and makes for a great journey. I would have liked a bit more information on Black Magic – it is said to not be evil, per se, but I’d still like to know more about it. Just to sate my curiosity. Much more magic in general, please! I need more.

This is by far my favorite read this year and I suggest you go pick it up and then, like me, eagerly await the sequel.

5paperhearts


Grabby Paws: Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland

Grabby Paws

“Grabby Paws” is my version of the Waiting on Wednesday meme hosted by Breaking The Spine that highlights upcoming releases that I can’t wait to get my paws on. 🙂

Today I have grabby paws for…

Zephyr Mourning has never been very good at being a Harpy. She’d rather watch reality TV than learn forty-seven ways to kill a man, and she pretty much sucks at wielding magic. Zephyr was ready for a future pretending to be a normal human instead of a half-god assassin. But all that changes when her sister is murdered—and she uses a forbidden dark power to save herself from the same fate.

Zephyr is on the run from a punishment worse than death when an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend (a surprisingly HOT friend) changes everything. Because it seems like Zephyr might just be the Nyx, a dark goddess made flesh that is prophesied to change the power balance. For hundreds of years the half-gods have lived in fear, and Zephyr is supposed to change that.

But how is she supposed to save everyone when she can’t even save herself?

Why I have grabby paws…

Yay Greek mythology! Harpies are so cool and such an untapped and intriguing source material. I kind of wish it were a series rather than a stand-alone, but it looks great either way.  Also, Zephyr Mourning is an amazing name.

Releases March 11th


Flashback Friday Review: The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson & The Olympians #3)

Flashback Friday is a meme hosted by Fic Fare and Swoony Boys Podcast, featuring reviews of books that have been out longer than two years but are no less awesome and deserving!

The Titan’s Curse

by Rick Riordan

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Series: Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3

Source: Purchased

Book Summary:

When the goddess Artemis goes missing, she is believed to have been kidnapped. And now it’s up to Percy and his friends to find out what happened. Who is powerful enough to kidnap a goddess?  They must find Artemis before the winter solstice, when her influence on the Olympian Council could swing an important vote on the war with the titans. Not only that, but first Percy will have to solve the mystery of a rare monster that Artemis was hunting when she disappeared’a monster rumored to be so powerful it could destroy Olympus forever.

book thoughts

(spoilers if you haven’t read the first two books)

So I was really enjoying this series so far. Then I read this book and completely fell in love with it. Those high-stakes and high emotions I mentioned in my review of The Lightning Thief, those aspects I’m always on the lookout for? Here they are!

We get a nice injection of female power in this one, with the arrival of the Hunters of Artemis, partly perhaps to clam the sting of Annabeth being largely absent from this installment.

The Goddess Artemis herself shows up here, and is generally awesome and actually relatable and not just snobby and power-mad as many of the Gods are portrayed. She appears as a twelve year old girl, and at one point declares “If this is Olympian justice, I will have no part in it!”, after an impassioned speech in favor of the Gods rewarding and not punishing the various assorted demigods. To which her brother, the ego-inflated, but otherwise refreshingly relatable Apollo, in the form of a teenage guy, suggests “Chill out, sis.” Seeing the Gods as real people – a bickering, squabbling family, who just happen to also control the world, is one of the most appealing and well-done aspects of this series.

After the revelation at the end of the second book, I was really looking forward to meeting Thalia. It seemed kind of quick to me, that they just fast-forwarded to six months later from the end of that last book, but we got some helpful catch-up info at least. Thalia is a great character infuriating at times but always interesting. It was nice getting a winter adventure here, the only one in this series. Especially when it is incorporated into the story, such as when Percy battles “Santa’s evil twin”. (I love the author;s chapter titles. I totally miss them in the Heroes of Olympus series.)

I love the little things in this series, like Nico playing a card game based on the Greek Gods, and telling Dionysus that he still thought he was cool, even if most players thought he was the weakest God ever, and Percy hoping Nico wouldn’t ask how many hit points Percy had. Great stuff.

The various myths that were incorporated in this installment definitely worked, and were surprising to me. I also loved the little seeds planted here and there for future installments. (view spoiler).

I can’t say exactly why this one made me fall in love. Even with little Annabeth involvement (and I love Annabeth) the character interaction was just top-notch and the plot had the perfect amount of peril and tension. Also, the villains accidentally grew zombie saber-toothed kittens and just sort of let them wander around the National Mall. Which is awesome.

5paperhearts


Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Things I’d Make Writers Write About If I Could

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

 This week’s theme is topics you would make authors write about if you could. This could be a specific type of character, an issue tackled, a time period, a certain plot, etc.

I worked forever on this post! I hope you like it. 🙂

So I’m cheating just a bit here since, as a writer, I’ve got some ideas that I won’t be sharing, because I plan to write about them myself.  But that’s okay, because it forced me to stretch my brain for yet more ideas for the post. Yay! Here we go:

1) Number one, because it must obviously be said that, above all else:

I want more Harry Potter involving the main cast, preferably right after book seven. Seeing Hermione, Ginny and Luna’s last year at Hogwarts would be awesome. And then maybe following Luna Lovegood’s application to work in the Department of Mysteries. (Yes, I know officially she becomes a kind of naturalist but COME ON the Department of Mysteries has got to be the best place to work in all of Potterdom.) I will also settle for a next-generation series involving the Potter-Weasley kids. I’m not one of those clamoring for a Marauders series (please don’t hit me!) , even though I’d read it and love it, and my husband really wants one, so I’ll ask for it on his behalf. 😉 I’d just rather have a new Harry Potter series that still incorporates the main cast.

2) More Gemma Doyle. Or at least something to alleviate my Gemma-withdrawl

While we’re on the subject of series that ended way too soon, I need more Gemma Doyle. The Sweet Far Thing is one of my very favorite books, but that ending seriously killed me. I need more. I need to know what happens next. I’m still holding out hope that maybe the illustrious Libba Bray will grace us with another Gemma installation, but in the meantime, I petition all writers of the world to please pen me a Victorian gas-lamp fantasy full of feisty feminists. I’m desperate.

3) A Positive Depiction of the Goddess Hecate

Yes, Hecate is considered a “dark” goddess in many ways, but she’s also my Goddess, and there is so much more to her than just being the “dark” goddess. She’s goddess of the witches, yes, but YA (and non-YA) readers nowadays know that “witch” does not equal “evil”. So how about our luminous Goddess of Magic be given the same treatment? I griped a bit at Rick Riordan for casting Hecate on the side of the bad guys in the first Percy Jackson series, but her redemption and entertaining appearances in The House of Hades definitely made up for it. His son also wrote a quite moving short story featuring Hecate in The Demigod Diaries.

I suppose I’m breaking my own stipulation here, since I said I wouldn’t mention topics I myself planned to write about, since I do plan to write a novel or three involving Hecate, but honestly? She is so complex and cool a goddess that I’ve no doubt there is enough of her lore to go around. Let’s flood the market! 😉 I’m very much looking forward to Daughter of Chaos by Jen McConnel, in which Hecate makes an appearance. She’s described as a “dark goddess” but hopefully, as I’m trying to point out, “dark” doesn’t have to mean “bad”.

And while we’re at it, how about a positive representation of modern Wiccans? I mean, I get that if you’re going to write a book involving Wiccans you might as well just write about witches, but I’d actually read a contemporary (I know – gasp!) if it had something like a normal Wiccan family in it. Or a supernatural story that nonetheless featured Wiccans-as-normal-not-remotely-scary people. Inroads are being made, it’s true, but I don’t have an illustration for this suggestion and that’s kind of my point! Let’s just have another of Hecate, then.

(click the image to visit the artist’s webpage)

4) A Disabled Character (Preferably Main) Who Isn’t Just There To “Inspire” The Non-Disabled

I’m disabled. I broke  my back when I was seventeen and now I walk with a crutch (yes, just like Tiny Tim 😉 ) and have chronic pain and a host of health problems. Yet it seems that the very few disabled characters we get in YA (and even literature in general) are less-than-realistic about the difficulties involved. We don’t all climb Everest, folks. Most of us struggle just to stay healthy. Sure, that’s a bit of a downer, but doesn’t literature kind of exist to explore emotions and struggles? I suppose it could be argued that people can’t take reading about the stark realities of the lives of disabled people, but I have more faith in people than that. We have had horrifying yet beautiful YA novels tackle the subjects of rape, child abuse, eating disorders, drug addiction and a whole host of others. I think it’s about time for disabilities to be added to the list. So why don’t I write one myself? I don’t know. Maybe I will some day. But I needn’t be the only one.

There are exceptions. Ashes on the Waves has a disabled main character, and his condition is depicted realistically, with all its inherent tragedy. And while for much of the book she is able-bodied, the time the main character of The Sea Inside spends in the hospital following her injury very accurately depicts the feelings of loss, isolation, and numbness that commonly accompany such an injury.

5)Doctor Who Novel With Doctor 10.5

There have been numerous Doctor Who novels involving the new Doctors, but as far as I know, no author has yet tackled the adventures of 10.5 and Rose in the parallel universe. (spoilers?) To my knowledge, there’s enough fan fiction on the subject that I’m quite confident an authorized novelization would sell. But then they need to get David Tennant to do the audio-book recording. If somehow this could happen, then, maybe, I’ll finally be able to get over Journey’s End. *sigh*

6) More Obscure Mythology

I love mythology. All kinds. It fascinates me. And I love discovering brand-new myths that I’ve never heard of, such as the fate-spinner seikona that appeared in Maria Dahvana Headley’s Queen of Kings. I want to know more about them, and I want to know more about other interesting myths. Ancient belief systems are flickering out all over the world and it’s a tragedy. I want to learn from them all.

7) More Poe Re-tellings

Since I absolutely loved and gushed over Mary Lindsey’s Ashes on the Waves and have no doubt that Bethany Griffiths’ Masque of the Red Death duology is likewise superb, I am putting in a request for more Poe re-tellings. The Fall of the House of User, perhaps?

8) The Lady of Shallot

The Lady of Shallot by Alfred Lord Tennyson is my very favorite poem and I desperately need both a modern and classical novelization of it. It’s beyond beautiful. If you’ve never read it, you should click here to read it, or listen to the Loreena McKennit song version of it below. I’m not going to spoil what happens for you, other than to say that it is the best metaphor ever constructed concerning the artist’s dilemma of observing the world and recording it, or becoming a part of it and risking the loss of yourself within.

9) Eurydice & Orpheus

While on the subject of re-tellings, I’d love to see my favorite Greek myth and one of my all-time favorite love stories, that of Eurydice and Orpheus, novelized, in either a modern or classical telling. In the myth, the bard Orpheus loses his bride Eurydice, and travels to the underworld to use his musical talents to move the hearts of Hades and Persephone enough for them to release her. They decide that Orpheus may lead Eurydice out of Hades, so long as he never once look back to be sure she is following. But Orpheus, mad with worry and suspecting a trick, looks back at the entrance to our world, and so loses Eurydice forever.

So, naturally, it’s the kind of thing I love and need a novel version of. If you want to learn more about the myth, click here:

9) Linda Bergkvist’s Dark Faery Tales

Linda Bergkvist is an immensely talented digital painter and my favorite modern artist. Tragically, she no longer posts her work online but thankfully she produced a number of magnificent paintings before her retirement. For a while she was working on a book of dark faery tales to accompany her illustrations, and I am forever saddened that I may never hold this book in my hands. I want to know the stories behind her masterpieces.

Her work has greatly inspired my own writing, and even if Linda herself never releases her book, I’d love to see how other writers interpret such breathtaking works as these.

Check out more of Linda’s artwork here.

10) Nightwish Novels and Within Temptation Tales

I have an immense love for symphonic gothic metal and find it enormously inspirational. I can’t be the only one. So where is the lush high fantasy epic based on Within Temptation’s Deciever of Fools?

or the sprawling, century-spanning tragic love story of Nightwish’s Ghost Love Score?

Make note of these requests, oh valiant writers of the world! 😀

Also, keep doing what you’re doing. You’re awesome.

 

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What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Have my wishes already come true and I just don’t know about the book(s) yet!? Let me know!


Review: Queen of Kings by Maria Dahvana Headley

Queen of Kings

by Maria Dahvana Headley

Genre: Adult Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Mythology

Series: Queen of Kings #1

Source: Won copy from The Secret Writer blog. Thank you!

Book Summary:

There’s more than one path to immortality…

A thrilling, chilling reimagining of the story of the most famous woman in history.

Once there was a queen of Egypt…a queen who became through magic something else…

The year is 30 BC. Octavian Caesar and his massed legions are poised to enter Alexandria. A messenger informs Egypt’s queen, Cleopatra, that her beloved Mark Antony has died by his own hand. Desperate to save her kingdom, resurrect her husband and protect all she holds dear, Cleopatra turns to the gods for help. Ignoring the warnings of those around her, she summons Sekhmet, goddess of death and destruction, and strikes a mortal bargain. And not even the wisest of Egypt’s scholar could have predicted what would follow…

For, in return for Antony’s soul, Sekhmet demands something in return: Cleopatra herself. And so Egypt’s queen is possessed. She becomes an immortal, shape-shifting, not-quite-human manifestation of a deity who seeks to destroy the world. Fighting to preserve something of her humanity, Cleopatra pursues Octavian back to Rome: she desires revenge, she yearns for her children…and she craves human blood.

It is a journey that will take her from the tombs of the Pharaohs to the great amphitheatres of imperial Rome and on, to Hell itself where, it seems, the fate of the world will finally be decided.

Blending authentic historical fiction and the darkest of fantasy, Queen of Kings is a spectacular and spellbinding feat of the imagination that fans of Neil Gaiman, Diana Gabaldon, George R.R. Martin, Patricia Briggs, Philippa Gregory, and Ridley Scott’s Gladiator won’t want to miss.

book thoughts

My husband: What’s your book about?

Me: Cleopatra becoming a vampire.

My husband: Oh. So the most likely of scenarios, then.

I am deeply indebted to The Secret Writer blog for holding a giveaway for this book. Otherwise I probably wouldn’t have known it existed, or else wouldn’t have tried it out because I tend to stay away from adult fiction (I’m allergic to casual sex – symptoms include cursing, inability to connect with characters and hurling book at the wall), but I’m so so glad I took the chance.  I love vampires and I love mythology so I was very curious to see how the author handled the mingling of the two.

Turns out, “vampires” are older than you think! Desperate to save her kingdom (and then the life of her beloved Antony), Cleopatra performs an already-ancient spell to summon the goddess Sekhmet, who appears to be the first vampire. Cursed by her father Ra, the sun god, her skin burns in the light. Goddess of death and Lady of Slaughter, she drinks the blood of her enemies. The goddess sees the potential in Cleopatra, and takes the Queen’s promise of “anything” in exchange for the goddess’ help as an invitation to possess Cleopatra.

In a cruel twist of fate, Antony dies again, and Cleopatra finds herself unable to die. Augustus Octavian suspects that Cleopatra has not truly died, and is coming for him. So he enlists the help of a cast of assorted sorcerers: Usem, leader of the Psylli tribe, assisted by his bride, the Western Wind; Chrysate, priestess of the goddess Hecate; and Auor, a seikona, or fate-spinner, from the unknown north. Octavian and his sorcerers, plus a few other characters, supplement Cleopatra’s narration, and far from being confusing, I felt that this technique truly enriched the narrative and gave the reader a more complete picture of the characters’ motivations and actions. The author even used the dreaded “head-hopping” in a way that was masterful and clear. I loved hearing the perspectives of the other mystical characters, especially Auor. Seikonas should be standard supernatural fare, if you ask me, because they are awesome. Octavian’s love-hate relationship with Cleopatra also adds  deeper level to the book. The writing itself is rich and descriptive, but never over-the-top. The historical aspects are meticulously researched and informative in a way that only serves to anchor the story more firmly in reality.

Cleopatra’s struggle to control Sekhmet’s blood-lust in the face of her own anger and agony is fascinating to watch. The reader even comes to understand and sympathize with the dark goddess. Cleopatra’s longing for her children is profound as well, but the emotional heart of the novel is her relationship with Antony and her struggle to be reunited with him. The most beautiful and moving scenes in the book detail  Antony and Cleopatra’s journey through the underworld to appeal to Hades and Persephone. The contrast of their love in a landscape of death and despair is gorgeously wrought. The ending is intense and even horrifying, and sets the stage for the next installment. I eagerly await it.

5paperhearts

So this is my new thing! Sometimes I will include a theme song for a book I read, one I think fits the story really well. My “theme song” for Queen of Kings is Sahara by Nightwish.

A ballad of a dark queen echoes through night

As he flees the curse of gods, the pharaoh`s wrath.

One thousand one nights unseen,

The philosopher and the queen.

Ancient mariner in a sea of sand, 

The burning beauty his tomb to die for…

May he now rest under the aegis of mirage

As the sands slowly turn to Elysian fields.