WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
Cleopatra VII Daughter of the Nile by Kristiana Gregory
Type: Children’s Series, Diary, Historical Fiction
Basic Plot: Cleopatra’s family members are all fools or cruel schemers. Desiring to live long enough to be queen, Cleopatra uses her wisdom to retain her father’s honor while in Rome.
Plot: 3/5 Average: The plot was not extraordinary, but interesting enough to read. It covers a long period of time, but does not say as much that happened during that time as it could have.
Writing Style and Setup: 3/5 Below Average: The writing style was natural, but the setup was sometimes awkward. The writing style was descriptive and realistic, but did use a lot of simple sentences. Usually she did use sentences though, which was better than authors that tend to use fragments on a regular basis. The awkwardness came in when she tried to set up the timeline. She didn’t always clarify when the entry was being written, and sometimes she dragged a story into two entries that may have fit well in only one. This may make a reader confused if the story was being told on two different days or if it was being told in the same day in different entries.
Moral: 4/5 A Very Good Moral: The moral shown throughout the book was the virtue of personal wisdom. Cleopatra’s father and sister are fools, and her other sister is evil. Her father is also living in Rome, a city that hopes to conquer her country and is filled with rude people. Even if everything and everyone else is foolish and crude, Cleopatra decides personally that she would rather be a dignified queen than to sink to the level of others. This is a very good moral, and the only improvement could have been to show it even more throughout the book.
Overall: 3/5 Average: The quality is average, though the moral is definitely very good. I believe that children would enjoy this book at the age of eight to fourteen.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 2/5 Suggestive Content and Immodest Pictures: Women bathe in the presence of male guards and female servants (though whether it is a bath in the way we associate with or not, I do not know) and use public bath houses. Characters sometimes “leer” at women. Characters are said to sing and say crude and vulgar things, but it is never specified what these things are. Characters hug and are mentioned to have hugged. Cleopatra accidentally cuts off the robes lower robes of a man, as she is startles when he picks her up. It is suggested that he may have been partially naked for a time, though he is covered again later with a cloak. Cleopatra kisses a man once. She talks about accidental touches, such as if their arms brush. It is mentioned that in a story, a woman keeps a man as her “love slave.” It mentions that Cleopatra was lovers with at least two men that were possibly not her husband. It is mentioned that men are naked when crucified. Several pictures showed in the historical notes show details of women’s breast, some possibly showing it naked.
Violence: 3/5 A Lot of Brief Mentions of Violence: Assassinations attempts and threats are throughout the books. Several characters are killed in various ways that include poison, strangling, weapons, and execution. A slave is eaten on stage by a lion, though Cleopatra refuses to watch it. It is mentioned that animals are killed by humans or other animals. Cleopatra is pinched by anonymous people while she is in the streets. Cleopatra writes that for its violence that Rome can burn for all she cares. She thinks that crocodiles will bite the fingers of children off. It is mentioned that slaves are whipped at and beaten. It is mentioned that a girl cut a man’s ears off. There is mention of Nero burning Rome as well as persecuting the Christians with death by lions.
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: ½/5 Suggestive: Several times it is mentioned that characters use vulgar and improper language, though it never says what is said.
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 3/5 Disturbing Content: A man is mentioned to be “called the Bearded Executioner.” There is worry over the common people killing from anger, as well thoughts and attempts at gathering soldiers to fight them. Eventually soldiers are brought to fight people in Egypt. A woman threatens to kill and animal, and Cleopatra wonders about its survival. Several disturbing death threats are sent to Cleopatra, including a skull and a picture of Cleopatra headless. Several people want kill to others, and sing about killing people. Other characters wish to see displays of violence or to hurt others. Characters worry and wonder that either they or someone they know will be or has been killed, as well as wish to stop killing. Characters are threatened with execution. Characters are mentioned to have gotten hurt. Characters grab weapons, and a woman holds a knife at a girl’s throat. Cleopatra points a sword at a man once. Crucifixion is described in detail and mentioned throughout the book. A man’s house is mentioned being on fire. Some of the deaths of people are morbid and slightly detailed. Characters drown or are mentioned to have drowned. Cleopatra sees a woman’s severed head and the bodies of people on crosses. It is mentioned that a character died from a fever. People are mentioned to have committed suicide in different ways. It is mentioned that a man’s tongue was cut off as a punishment. A woman is strangled to death, though Cleopatra does not witness it. A man is “run over” by a chariot. A woman has her husband killed. A girl almost drowns. Cleopatra leaves a play at the crowd encouraging a crucifixion of a man. Blood is mentioned at least twice.
Religious Issues: 2/5 Suggestiveness and Mythology: Cleopatra prays to Isis, the main goddess of the Egyptians, and several other false gods are mentioned, as well as that hippos are thought to be goddesses. Pagan temples, figureheads, the sphinx, and the use of incense are mentioned. God is once referred to with a little ‘g.’ Boats are named after false gods and a false goddess. Hercules, a nymph, and The Odyssey are mentioned. The religious reasons for pyramids are mentioned. A verse from the Bible is used that is not the King James Version. Some people wonder if Alexander the Great is the Messiah, though it is not said that he is, and one person says that he isn’t. A boy wants “to become a rabbi.” A man is against helping Egypt because he believes it goes against their prophesies.
Magic: 1/5 Suggestiveness and Mythology: A mirror is referred to as a “magic mirror.” There is mention of people worrying over various superstitions. Mythology is mentioned throughout the book. No magic is done in the book.
Others: There is mention of wine and dancing throughout the book. Characters often get drunk in the book, and sometimes their drunken state is described in detail. A man is known to greatly worship a false god of wine. Other characters are merely mentioned to be drunkards. Cleopatra wishes to make a law against “drunkenness,” but she changes her mind when she realizes her father won’t regard it. A girl prays that her father is drunk so that he does not punish his slaves. Characters are mentioned to play with dice, hinting that they may have been gambling. Cleopatra is mentioned to have married her brother.
Overall: I don’t really recommend this book as much as I would other Dear America books. The references to mythology in the first person, immodest pictures, and disturbing content cause me to not recommend it.