Book Review: Cleo (Lucy Coats)

*I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Publisher: Orchard Books

Pages: 320

Release Date: May 7th 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

Her precious mother is dead – and it isn’t an accident! The young Cleopatra – Pharaoh’s illegitimate daughter – must flee the royal palace at Alexandria or die too. As her evil half-sisters usurp the throne, Cleo finds sanctuary at the sacred temple of Isis, where years later she becomes initiated into the secret Sisters of the Living Knot. But now Isis’s power is failing, Egypt is in danger, and Cleo must prove her loyalty to her goddess by returning to the Alexandria she hates. She must seek out the hidden map which is the key to returning Isis’s power – on pain of death. But will she be able to evade her horrible sisters? And will she find dreamy Khai, the ├╝ber-hot Librarian boy she met as she fled Alexandria years before? Cleo’s powerful destiny is about to unfold…

Gorgeous and evocative, this captivating new YA novel imagines the life of the teenage Cleopatra before she became the icon we think we know.

Review:

We used to holiday in Egypt when I was younger and it started a passion for all things Ancient Egyptian in me, so I was immediately drawn to this book (that and the gorgeous cover). I read something vaguely similar when I was a teen and I remember, much as I loved it as it fed my Egypt obsession, I struggled a bit with the voice – it was too formal and foreign for me and it was hard to connect with.

I found the opposite with Cleo. The voice and dialogue were modern and actually very relatable: I loved the way her and Charm called each other little names like ‘Princess of Pain’ and ‘Beater of Bruises’ – it’s just the kind of thing I do with my best friend. But because everything was so modern it was sometimes difficult to remember everything was happening in Ancient Egypt.

As I said, I have a great interest in Egypt and I even did a study on Cleopatra once (on if she deserved her reputation as a temptress – very interesting but in this story it’s probably a bit early for that reputation!) I thought I’d probably know how the story would go, but I was very wrong. Cleo isn’t really a re-telling of Cleopatra’s life, but a complete re-imagining of it.

I loved the idea of Cleo seeing the gods and being the Chosen of Isis. Hearing about the relationships between the gods and the effects this had on the country was really interesting, as were the little bits of history and lore dropped in. It never felt too preachy or info-dumpy, but there was enough to give you a rich sense of setting.

When it came to Cleo herself, I thought she was best at the end of the book. Much as she said she didn’t want to be a whiny princess, sometimes I found her to be just that. But when she was facing off with her sisters (though I did wish she’d stop calling them Evil Sow Sisters quite so much) she really came into her own. I’d love to see more of that: the political power play, dodging round what you really want to say. It was very dangerous and empowering and I loved seeing how she handled herself against them.

I thought the romance was a touch insta-love for my liking, but I’m also a massive romance cynic so it’s probably just me. I liked that Cleo knew him from before we start reading her story and would love to see more of a connection there. I hope there’s more story to come for her and Khai as I’d love to see their relationship build. But the relationship I really loved was Cleo and Charm’s: they’re the perfect best friends and Charm had me quite charmed (cheesy I know, sorry!)

The ending frustrated me, only because I wanted to see what happens next. Gotta love a good cliffhanger! Much as it annoyed me, I knew it was the right place to end. The tension and drama was unrelenting and it marked the end of the first part of Cleo’s journey, and I look forward to seeing where her adventure goes next.

4

Check here see my interview with Lucy Coats for the #CountdownYA event or here to see her guest post on where she writes for YAShot 2015

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