Queen of Kings: The Immortal Story of Cleopatra. Maria Dahvana Headley. May 2011. Dutton: A Member of Penguin Group U.S.A. Inc. 416 pp. hb. ISBN #: 9780525952176.
"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 The list of sources and historical references after the story are quite impressive and provide a long list of material to be read for those who are as gripped by this story as this reviewer was and is.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!