Review | The Daughters of Palatine Hill by Phyllis T. Smith

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

26084412The Daughters of Palatine Hill by Phyllis T. Smith
Release date: February 16th, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: NetGalley

Two years after Emperor Augustus’s bloody defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, he triumphantly returns to Rome. To his only child, Julia, he brings an unlikely companion—Selene, the daughter of the conquered Egyptian queen and her lover.

Under the watchful eye of Augustus’s wife, Livia, Selene struggles to accept her new home among her parents’ enemies. Bound together by kinship and spilled blood, these three women—Livia, Selene, and Julia—navigate the dangerous world of Rome’s ruling elite, their every move a political strategy, their most intimate decisions in the emperor’s hands.

Always suppressing their own desires for the good of Rome, each must fulfill her role. For astute Livia, this means unwavering fidelity to her all-powerful husband; for sensual Julia, surrender to an arranged marriage and denial of her craving for love and the pleasures of the flesh; for orphaned Selene, choosing between loyalty to her family’s killers and her wish for revenge.

Can they survive Rome’s deadly intrigues, or will they be swept away by the perilous currents of the world’s most powerful empire?

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The Daughters of Palatine Hill by Phyllis T. Smith completely captivated me from the start. It is told from the perspectives of three women: Julia, the daughter of Roman Emperor Augustus, Livia, his wife and Selene, the daughter of the now deceased Marc Anthony and Cleopatra. I have read several young adult books based on the life of Selene and her inclusion in the book is ultimately what drew me to it.

All three women go through so much heartbreak, sacrifice and danger. It’s not safe or easy being close to the Emperor of Rome. They cannot really make any of their own decisions and are basically pawns in the constant battle for power and influence. Livia was bound to Augustus in an arranged marriage and Julia is expected to marry according to her father’s choices and produce an heir. Selene was constantly fighting for survival as it wasn’t easy being the daughter of a vanquished enemy.

While Selene wasn’t the focus on the novel, Julia’s story of rebellion and longing drew me in. I totally emphasized with her situation and need to be free from her father’s will. I cannot imagine what I would have done in a similar situation, but I found myself cheering her on when she followed her heart and feeling utterly devastated when she was suppressed. I greatly admire the author’s ability to craft such a vivid character. In the books I have read in the past, Julia is usually not as relatable and it has given me a different perspective.

This wasn’t an action driven novel and isn’t short by any means, but I never lost interest. I would highly recommend this book to people who enjoy historical fiction or have an interest in ancient Rome. This is the author’s second novel (her first being I Am Livia), and while they have a similar topic, The Daughters of Palatine Hill can be enjoyed as a standalone. I am now looking forward to reading the first novel about Livia’s early life.



Review – The Lost Queen: Ankhsenamun, Widow of King Tutankhamun by Cheryl L. Fluty

10280976She was the last surviving member of the glorious 18th Dynasty, Queen of a golden empire that stretched from the 4th cataract of the Nile to the banks of the Euphrates: Egypt at the height of its glory and power. But Ankhsenamun and her brother-husband, Tutankhamun, the product of centuries of inbreeding, were unable to produce a living heir to the throne. Now, with word of the untimely death of her young husband, she must consider a drastic alternative means of conceiving an heir. Later still, with her aging grandfather on the throne, faced with the intolerable prospect of being forced into marriage with Egypt’s strongman, General Horemheb, and the strong possibility of being murdered by his jealous and power-hungry principal wife, she contemplates yet another drastic step: applying to Egypt’s arch-enemy, the King of the Hittites, for one of his sons to marry.

Astonishingly, we have both sides of this remarkable correspondence in the archaeological record. Ankhsenamun wrote to Suppililiuma, King of the Hittites, asking him to send one of his sons for her to marry so that she did not have to marry her “servant”. After sending a delegation to enquire into the legitimacy of this proposal, Suppililiuma sent his son, Prince Zenanza, to Egypt, but he was assassinated along the way. General Horemheb later took credit for the act. Ankhsenamun then disappears from the record. Her fate is a mystery. Did she die? Was she murdered? Or did she, just possibly, escape? If so, where did she go, and who helped her? This is the story of what may have happened. It is also the story of the birth of the Biblical Moses, and explains the real significance of his name.

The Lost Queen is an semi-interesting historical fiction novel about a little known Egyptian queen, Ankhsenamun. Ankhsenamun was the daughter of the Pharaoh Akhenaten and Great Royal Wife Nefertiti. She married her half-brother Tutankhamun at a young age. After his death she simply disappeared from the historical record.

I found this book on sale and downloaded it for my Kindle. I had just finished my obsession with Michelle Moran’s Egyptian trilogy and needed more Egyptian-based historical fiction to hold me over until the release of her next book.

I gave the novel 2.5 stars, although I feel like I’m being a bit harsh. It wasn’t all that bad. However, there are times when the novel is completely unbelievable. I understand that historians don’t know much about her, so Fluty didn’t have much to work with. But, a romanic relationship with a Hebrew trader and biblical references to Moses seem to stretch the truth a little too much. I may just be me though. I usually enjoy historical fiction that stays more closer to the historical record. All in all, it is an enjoyable read if you ignore some of the implausible situations.

2.5 Stars