Song of the Nile - Stephanie Dray It's always such a joy when I come across books like Song of the Nile, books that bring together my two favorite genres which are fantasy and historical fiction. I'd looked forward to this novel ever since I finished reading its predecessor Lily of the Nile, and it did not disappoint.

Song of the Nile continues the story of Cleopatra Selene, daughter of Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony. When we last left her, she was growing up as a ward/hostage in the household of the Roman emperor Augustus. This book focuses on the next chapter of her life -- her marriage to King Juba II and her journey to become queen of Mauretania. All the while, however, Selene cannot leave behind the memories of the loved ones she has lost, and continues to fight for her beloved Egypt and to claim her birthright to her mother's throne.

In this sequel I felt a shift in style from the first book. While Lily of the Nile was very subtle in its themes and symbols, Song of the Nile takes a more head-on approach at tackling the story. This might have something to do with the fact that the subject matters in this book are a lot darker. Selene has grown from a child to an adult so it makes sense that the themes in this novel would be more mature, but I was surprised to see that they were also more controversial. This and other factors made this book feel very different and Selene is no longer the Selene we knew from Lily of the Nile, but all this is good in a way. The character shows depth and growth, and the author makes the reader feel that we are with Selene every step of the way

As Selene becomes a woman, her quest for her own identity continues. At times her narrative makes her seem like she is confused with who she is, or that she is everywhere at once. For example, one moment she would identify with her mother, and in another she would identify with Augustus, or she would think highly of her own abilities in one paragraph, then despair of her helplessness in the next. There was also her single-minded goal to become Queen of Egypt, and the disturbing lengths she would be willing to go to in order to achieve it. This made the book frustrating to read at times, but also hard not to sympathize when I knew this was simply Selene struggling to find herself and come out from under the emperor's thumb as well as her mother's shadow. She's not perfect, and that's okay.

After reading both books, I think I still like Lily of the Nile more, which is why I rated this book the way I did, but by no means does this indicate I think that the second book fails to live up to the standards of the first. On the contrary, I thought this was an excellent follow up, but the first time you meet a character is just always so much more powerful.

As before, I am impressed with the amount of work that must have gone into the researching for this novel. Ms. Dray covered much of what is known about Selene's life, but also added her own flair to the story to fill in the many gaps we don't know. What makes this series even more unique is that there is also a heavy dose of fantastical elements, such as Selene's and her siblings' abilities to work magic. I know some people don't like fantasy in their historical fiction, but I'm personally okay with it as long as it's done well and done tastefully, and I feel the author strikes a good balance in these novels. This is why I love reading historical fiction, for the creative elements that fuel our imaginations and make what we know more alive and interesting.