Wednesday, May 30, 2012

QUEEN OF KINGS by Maria Dahvana Headley

Publisher: Penguin
Date published: May 1, 2012
ISBN 9780451235251
Mythology, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Vampire, Gods and Goddesses, Horror
Reviewed by Gina
Obtained Via Publisher

Her home—Egypt—under siege by Julius Cesar’s adopted son, Octavian, Cleopatra still believes she will triumph. How can she lose with Antony by her side? They pledge their love for each other, that they will always belong to each other and Antony prepares for battle. Treachery however is afoot and in a series of misleading communications Antony comes to believe Cleopatra has betrayed him.
When Cleopatra sees that all is about to be lost she flees to the mausoleum she and Antony has built where they will enter the Duat and spend eternity together. Rather than death Cleopatra has a plan and weaves a spell to call down the Goddess Sekhmet. The Goddess answers but not in any way Cleopatra could have dreamed Sekhmet is the destroyer. She is the Goddess Ra sent to her to destroy the evil ones. But she went a bit too far and for ages has been banned. Now, with Cleopatra’s spell Sekhment again walks the earth, seeking vengeance against her enemies—and Cleopatra’s. As the spell takes form Cleopatra becomes half human, half goddess, both dead and undead.
At first she believes she has won. When Antony is brought to her near death she wields her magic to save him. His life is restored only to be taken again in a horrific twist of fate. When Octavian takes hold of Antony’s body and orders it burned Cleopatra keeps a part of him with her in the form of ashes. When her children are taken from her Cleopatra begins to invoke her own brand of vengeance. But she is no longer merely a woman and the queen of Egypt. She is something more, something much more. She is the embodiment of Sekhmet and all that the Goddess is. Despite having lost her soul, her love for Antony survives and continues to burn bright. Despite the twists and turns of her life she seeks to be reunited with her love.

I wasn’t quite prepared for what Maria Dahvana Headley’s QUEEN OF KINGS turned out to be. It is billed as a story of Cleopatra as a vampire. It is so much more. It is one of those books that has something for pretty much everyone. There is Egyptian and Roman mythology, gods and goddesses, paranormal elements, a passionate love story that transcends death, suspense, and historical fiction, to name a few genres. Rather than making the myriad genres convoluted Ms. Headley weaves them together in a compelling story. While there are elements of vampire lore in the story it delves more deeply into mythology which I very much enjoyed. You do not see many stories about Sekhmet – she is not viewed as one of the most likeable goddesses, but she fiercely defends her own. She is the mother cat protecting her family above all else. Ms. Headly tells Sekhmet’s story alongside Cleopatra’s.

At times it reminded me of Robert E. Howard’s Conan THE BARBARIAN, especially when Cleopatra shapeshifts into various forms. I couldn’t get the image of James Earl Jones in the first Conan movie out of my mind – but it wasn’t comical or cartoonish. Instead it brought the myth to life.
There were a few points in the beginning where the story went flat for me. I had a bit of a time staying with it. Once the story took off though it continued non-stop with some well done action.
The two parts of Cleopatra are well done. You see her as the Queen and as a wife, mother and lover. I wanted a different ending for she and Antony but in reality the ending was the right one. It was perfect for both Sekhment and Cleopatra.

While there is something for just about everyone in the story, QUEEN OF KINGS isn’t necessarily for everyone. You don’t have to know mythology, particularly the Egyptian paradigm, to enjoy it. In fact Ms. Headly explains Sekhmet’s story wonderfully. It is the horror elements of the story that stop me from saying everyone would love this story. They do not permeate the story and the love story outshines those elements but they are present enough that some readers may shy away from the book. I definitely look forward to more of Ms. Headley’s books.

This is an objective review and not an endorsement of this book.

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