Queen of Kings

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The immortal story of Cleopatra.

Passion and seduction, witches and warriors, and history and mythology combine to bring the timeless story of Cleopatra to life like never before in this stunningly original and spellbinding debut.

The year is 30 BC. A messenger delivers word to Queen Cleopatra that her beloved husband, Antony, has died at his own hand. Desperate to save her kingdom and resurrect her husband, Cleopatra summons the most fearsome...

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The immortal story of Cleopatra.

Passion and seduction, witches and warriors, and history and mythology combine to bring the timeless story of Cleopatra to life like never before in this stunningly original and spellbinding debut.

The year is 30 BC. A messenger delivers word to Queen Cleopatra that her beloved husband, Antony, has died at his own hand. Desperate to save her kingdom and resurrect her husband, Cleopatra summons the most fearsome warrior goddess, Sekhmet, and against the warnings of her scholars she strikes a mortal bargain. But not even the wisest scholars could have predicted what would follow...

In exchange for Antony's soul, Cleopatra is transformed into a vampiric creature of mythical proportions, an immortal shapeshifter with superhuman strength and an insatiable hunger for human blood-a being at once ferocious and seductive. And she is bent on vengeance against those who have wronged her family and her kingdom. Clashing against witches and monsters, gods and warriors, Cleopatra journeys from the tombs of Egypt to the great amphitheaters of Rome to the ancient underworld-where she will meet her love once again, and where the battle between man and beast will determine the fate of the world.

Blending history, fantasy, romance, and the supernatural, Queen of Kings is a masterful feat of the imagination that fans of Diana Gabaldon, Patricia Briggs, Philippa Gregory, and Neil Gaiman won't want to miss.

Read Maria Dahvana Headley's blogs and other content on the Penguin Community.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The blurbs compare Headley's Cleopatra-gone-bad fantasia to Diana Gabaldon and Neil Gaiman, but it's likely that the Anne Rice fans will find more to like here. Though there are some lovely romantic scenes at the outset, this is no romance. The Egyptian capital of Alexandria is under siege by the vengeful Octavian, out to punish Marc Antony for choosing loyalty to Cleopatra over Rome, and over Octavian's sister, whom Antony has divorced. Antony dies within the first few pages, and Cleopatra seeks to strike a bargain with the ancient lion-headed goddess, Sekhmet, to bring him back. The deal goes bad, as all such bargains must, and the question becomes not whether Antony will live again, but what price will Sekhmet extract from Cleopatra for the queen's audacity? Part horror, part history, and all tragedy, the story is not likely to please romance fans. But for those who enjoy the eroticized violence and stylish nightmares of the Rice tradition, Headley delivers a vivid dose. (May)
Library Journal
In retelling the story of one of the most fascinating women of history, Headley (The Year of Yes: A Memoir) has penned a dark mix of paranormal romance and historical thriller. Cleopatra, seeing her country conquered by Rome and hearing that her beloved husband, Marc Antony, had committed suicide, turns to dark magic to defend herself against the forces gathered against her. But she unleashes a power she's unable to control and is transformed into a vampiric creature. What follows is a blending of history and mythology of epic proportions. According to the author's website, this title is intended as the first of a trilogy. It will be interesting to see where Headley takes her Cleopatra next. VERDICT Readers who enjoy grand stories steeped in history yet rewritten with a dark, magical twist may be intrigued by this depiction of Cleopatra.—Crystal Renfro, Georgia Inst. of Technology Lib., Atlanta
Library Journal
What does Cleopatra do when her beloved Antony kills himself? She strikes a bargain with the warrior goddess Sekhmet and becomes a vampire…I mean, a shapeshifting immortal with a thirst for blood. What follows is a series of fierce battles in the realm of the supernatural and possibly a meditation on the power of love. However this sounds, Headley has interesting credentials; she's a playwright, founder of the Memoirists Collective, and author of the offbeat The Year of Yes.
Kirkus Reviews

It is not an asp that Cleopatra takes to her breast in this novel. It is Sekhmet, the daughter of Ra, the Sun God, summoned by the distraught queen and thereafter shifting into the form of a viper.

Antony, defeated at Actium, is besieged at Alexandria by Octavian, fragile boy turned emperor. A false message from the Roman camp reaches Antony saying that Cleopatra has betrayed him. Cleopatra, however, has retreated to the couple's fortress mausoleum and conjured a spell written by the old god-kings, a spell discovered and translated by Nicolaus, a scholar. With its incantation, Cleopatra became that which the Romans labeled her:fatale monstrum.Headley (The Year of Yes,2007)carries the reader beyond history, beyond Shakespearean drama, and into the realm of angry gods, shape-shifters and vampires. Imbued with Sekhmet's power, Cleopatra becomes a night creature, flesh burnt by sun and metal, nourished only by human blood. Cleopatra, bent on revenge for the death of Antony, must watch as Octavian, her nemesis, provokes the murder of Caesarion, her son by Julius Caesar. Octavian then carries Cleopatra's three remaining children to Rome. After a visit to temple at Thebes, where a priestess keeps watch in the name of Sekhmet, Cleopatra shape-shifts into a lioness, steals aboard a slave ship and is transported to Rome. Octavian has been declared emperor, taking the name Caesar Augustus, but he still fears Cleopatra, and so he gathers three sorcerers from the Empire's edges to protect him, one of whom conjures up Antony from his ashes. Headley's complex plot also includes visits to Hades, circuses and gladiators, an epic battle at Avernus and the seven children of Sekhmet (plague, famine, earthquake, flood, drought, madness and violence) loosed upon the world.

First of a trilogy,this book,replete with descriptive language and a magical narrative,will appeal to fans of the fantasy genre.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780525952176
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/12/2011
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 9.08 (w) x 6.34 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Maria Dahvana Headley is a MacDowell Colony Fellow whose writing has appeared in The New York Times, Elle, The Washington Post, and other publications. She is the author of the memoir The Year of Yes (2007), which has been translated into nine languages and was optioned for a film by Paramount. She lives in Seattle.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 13, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting Twist

    I think everyone knows at least a little of the story of Cleopatra. But no matter what you thought you knew this book will open your eyes to a new way of viewing history.

    In this book you dont just read about the Queen of Egypt. You read about a wife, mother and queen who loses her one true love and will do anything to get him back and get revenge. Including sacrificing herself and in the end even her kingdom. She becomes almost completely inhuman after her ritual. But she still holds onto enough of herself to try and save her children and send Mark Antony to the afterlife all Egyptians dreamed of, even as she dooms herself.

    The book is set against the historical backdrop of Octavian invading Egypt and Rome taking control of what was Cleopatra's kingdom. You get a lot of what we believe is historical fact for these events. Which when combined with the paranormal aspects the author has created has developed such a complex, interesting story you cant not read and find out what happens.

    This is a well-written, well-researched novel that will open history back up for more people to read and enjoy. She cleverly weaves in both Roman and Egyptian mythology and beliefs. To a point where you can easily say, whats to say all of this really didn't happen. She seems to effortlessly weave together both history and fantasy (paranormal) to create a story that keeps you reading and turning the pages all the way to the conclusion.

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  • Posted May 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The Immortal Story of Cleopatra!

    "Everything is true. Once a story is told, it becomes true. Every unlikely tale, every tale of wonders, has something real at its core." This quote in the "Historical Note" section after the novel serves to properly introduce an amazing, wondrous tale. For when one begins this novel about the famous Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, one is not expecting this story of love and war conducted on human, mythological, and supernatural multi-levels. The love of Antony and Cleopatra is well-known, but the devastation that follows Rome's defeat of Egypt sets loose days and nights of terror that will make the reader shiver many, many times in the following pages.

    For Octavius, the Roman leader, sends a messenger to Cleopatra, telling her that Antony has committed suicide. Cleopatra does not discover the truth until much later, as she is busy creating an incomplete spell in which she attempts to invoke the powers of Sekhmet. Her goal is to defeat Roman power but what she unleashes are the powers of death, destruction, chaos, plague, and every form of evil one could possibly conceive. It's as if Pandora's box has opened to unleash the fury of darkness and chaos upon every corner of the world.

    Cleopatra becomes Sekhmet's furious tool of evil, fueled by the blood of her hapless victims of both high and low birth. But the neatness of this story becomes even more complex when the powers of the mythological underworld,a priestess, sorceress, historian, serpents, gods, and goddesses take sides in a war between Cleopatra and those who support Octavius. Plague, war, thefts, battles, vicious murders, and ritual sacrifices fill these pages with a story that defies imagination yet seems all too real and horrific!

    Maria Dahvana Headley has written a timeless, literate, and wonder-filled story that is an absolute must read. The list of sources and historical references after the story are quite impressive and provide a long list of material to be read for those who are as gripped by this story as this reviewer was and is. Superb story that was obviously fueled by the creative Muses - don't miss this gem!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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