Historical fantasist Graham (Black Ships) heads to Egypt with this elegant, engaging memoir of Charmian, half-sister and handmaiden to Cleopatra. The two young women and their other sister, Iras, are inseparable from childhood, getting one another into and out of numerous mishaps. As teenagers, they vow to Isis that they will protect Egypt from the covetous Romans, and in return for their devotion, the goddess rewards Cleopatra with the throne. Graham never resorts to melodrama even at the murder of Julius Caesar or to cliché when Charmian recalls her past lives, and she supplies plenty of superb historical detail, but doesn't let it overwhelm the narrative. Charmian's shy hopes, failures and devotion to Cleopatra and Isis make her one of the most memorable "witnesses to history" to emerge from fantasy in quite some time. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Three half sisters, each fathered by the Pharaoh Ptolemy Auletes, grow up in an Egypt on the verge of catastrophic change. Iras and Charmian are companions to their middle sister, the legitimate daughter, named Cleopatra. The author of Black Ships brings to life the courts of Ptolemy and Cleopatra in a way that illuminates the lives of women and their effect on history. A stand-out addition to most libraries, with strong appeal to fans of ancient history and mythology.
Seeress Gull (Black Ships, 2008) is reincarnated hundreds of years after the fall of Troy as Charmian, handmaiden and half-sister to doomed Queen Cleopatra of Egypt. The daughter of a dead pleasure slave and Pharaoh Ptolemy Auletes, Charmian is dedicated to Cleopatra when both girls are six. Although Charmian and her fellow handmaiden and half sister Iras are both slaves, they are also Cleopatra's chief confidantes and ministers once she becomes queen. But good government, Charmian's prophetic visions, clever diplomacy and Cleopatra's more intimate alliances with Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius ultimately avail them little against the crushing power that is Rome. Snatching love and happiness where they can, the three sisters devote themselves to the goddess Isis, and in her service, to preserving what they can of their way of life. With a solid grounding in history, this novel is a far richer work than its predecessor. Although most readers will already be aware of Cleopatra's sad fate (and will know from page one that Charmian shares it with her mistress), the journey, and the vivid descriptions of life in the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria, make this book well worth reading. Moreover, the sympathetic portrayal of Cleopatra as an intelligent and devoted ruler willing to use whatever tools at hand to gain advantages for her people is a welcome and intriguing departure from prior fictional depictions of the Egyptian queen as a decadent nymphomaniac, love-blinded fool or drugged-out opportunist. Recommended for those with an interest in the ancient world.