Book review: Cleopatra’s Heir by Gillian Bradshaw

Cleopatra’s Heir by Gillian Bradshaw

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve enjoyed Gillian Bradshaw’s historical fiction for many many years. This book has an interesting premise: if Cleopatra and Julius Caesar’s son survived after Cleopatra’s defeat and death, what might have happened to him? Would he have tried to take his throne back? Would he have been content to live like a normal person? How might he have done that?
The author explores this premise, exploring the possible mindset of Caesarion as a privileged (in the non-21st century meaning of the word) member of the royal family to someone with no family, no money, and in danger of his life. The book is charmingly written (as is all of the author’s books) and informative about life in the Egyptian court. If there is any criticism, it is that there is a little too much teenage drama and angst from Caesarion. But perhaps that is more about my impatience with and intolerance of teenage angst than it is a criticism of the book. 🙂
The book also takes an interesting perspective on Octavian, Cleopatra, and Mark Anthony and makes them more human than legend has made them. I liked the angle.
In the end, as the Author’s Note made clear, Caesarion was almost certainly killed by the Romans. But this book fascinates with the “what if” alternative. It’s definitely a worthwhile read!

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Book review: Render Unto Caesar by Gillian Bradshaw

Render Unto CaesarRender Unto Caesar by Gillian Bradshaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gillian Bradshaw is an underrated historical fiction writer. I have read most of her books (I’m still working on the rest of them), and she does an excellent job integrating a compelling plot with interesting characters set in a historical time period. She does especially well with the Roman Empire, where many of her books take place.
In this particular book, we learn much about the intrigues surrounding the Roman Empire and the relationship between Rome and her colonies as a result of an Egyptian merchant who inherits a large debt owed by an important Roman politician. As a result of the merchant’s attempt to collect this debt, there are attempts made on his life, and he gets sucked into the vortex known as Roman politics. In between the assassination attempts, we learn about slavery, the gladiator school, and the role of women in the Roman Empire (among other things).
I don’t think this is one of the author’s best books, but she is such an excellent author that it doesn’t matter. Her characters are interesting, and the historical detail well-integrated into the novel. If you’re interested in this time period, this is a definite recommended read!

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