Book Review: Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile - Adventures in Time by Dominic Sandbrook
Written by: Dominic Sandbrook
Published by: Particular Books
Historical Setting: Ancient Egypt
Recommended reading age: 9+
I’m a big fan of the Adventures in Time series from Dominic Sandbrook. So you can imagine my excitement when Sandbrook released a new book in the series, focusing on my favourite era of history – Ancient Egypt. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this gem of a book and boy oh boy! I wasn’t disappointed. I’m just going to come out and say it – I think Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile is the best book in the Adventures in Time series so far.
Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile follows the life of Egypt’s final Pharaoh, from her childhood, through her ascension to the throne, her dealings with the Romans, and ultimately her death. Sandbrook has taken Cleopatra’s life and skilfully moulded it into a gripping plot with pacey storytelling. Julius Caesar’s siege of Alexandria was a particular highlight for me – it had me hooked.
Sandbrook admits that there are gaps in the historical record of Cleopatra’s life, so he had to fill in some of the blanks himself. That said, it’s clear that these blanks are not a hindrance, but an opportunity to impart more wisdom to the reader. The author fills the blanks with details on culture and life in Egypt. He paints a vivid picture of the city of Alexandria, the River Nile, and what life was like for Egyptian people, both rich and poor. Sandbrook expertly immerses his readers into the awe-inspiring world of Ancient Egypt.
It would be impossible to tell a story about Cleopatra without also telling a story about the Romans; the two are so closely interlinked. This is much the same for Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile. Although Cleopatra gets the title role, this is as much a story about Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony. I’ll admit, there are times when you feel like you haven’t checked in with the title character for a while. But Sandbrook handles this well, by always bringing us back to Cleopatra’s thoughts & feelings on the actions of the Romans. And the truth is, the story would fall apart without the author’s adept descriptions of the Roman wars & politics, giving us some clear context on the happenings away from Egypt.
There are a lot of characters featured in this book and a lot of repeated names (so many Ptolomys!). What’s mind-blowing is that I never felt confused or lost. This is a true testament to Sandbrook’s writing skill; each character was clear and distinctive so I knew exactly who everyone was at all times.
Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile is a must-read for fans of Ancient Egypt & the Romans. This book is well-researched, detailed, nicely paced, and engaging. It would be easy with what we know of Cleopatra from the Romans to paint her as a villain (as so many often do). Instead, Sandbrook’s Cleopatra is a well-rounded, inspirational figure with strengths, flaws, and true-to-life motivations – this book is a well-deserved fist-bump to this heroic female.
A huge thank you to Particular Books for providing us with a review copy of Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile.
If you'd like to buy the book, then please click here to head to Penguin Books website