Thursday, 21 July 2011

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Queen of Kings - Maria Dahvana Headley

Release Date: 21/07/11

What if Cleopatra didn't die in 30 BC alongside her beloved Mark Antony? What if she couldn't die? What if she became immortal? Queen of Kings is the first instalment in an epic, epoch-spanning story of one woman's clash with the Roman Empire and the gods of Egypt in a quest to save everything she holds dear. As Octavian Caesar (later Augustus) and his legions march into Alexandria, Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, summons Sekhmet, the goddess of Death and Destruction, in a desperate attempt to resurrect her husband, who has died by his own hand, and save her kingdom. But this deity demands something in return: Cleopatra's soul. Against her will, Egypt's queen becomes a blood-craving, shape-shifting immortal: a not-quite-human manifestation of a goddess who seeks to destroy the world. Battling to preserve something of her humanity, Cleopatra pursues Octavian back to Rome - she desires revenge, she yearns for her children - and she craves blood...It is a dangerous journey she must make. She will confront witches, mythic monsters, the gods of ancient Greece and Rome, and her own, warring nature. She will kill but she will also find mercy. She will raise an extraordinary army to fight her enemies, and she will see her beloved Antony again. But to save him from the endless torment of Hades, she must make a devastating sacrifice. Brutally authentic historical fiction meets the darkest of fantasy in Maria Dahvana Headley's extraordinary debut novel about the most famous woman in history: Cleopatra, Queen of Kings.

Having been turned onto Maria’s writing by a friend in the publishing industry I was interested to see what would occur in her first Historical Urban Fantasy, Queen of Kings, part one of a trilogy. What unfurled within was a tale that delightfully written with great prose, wonderful descriptions and a wicked twist on the alluring femme fatale vampire that readers have been fascinated with since Le Fanu’s Carmilla.

However whilst Cleopatra in the tale was one of the undead due to a ritual with Sekhmet (the lioness headed goddess in Ancient Egypt) the tale is one about love, loss and vengeance which is not only cleverly balanced but wonderfully creative alongside refreshing. Add to this a pacey story arc, some great dialogue and a principle character who we can associate with as she loses her humanity and it’s a title that was not only entertaining but one of sheer fascination. All in, the book was a wonderful departure from a lot of the usual vampire fiction out there and when blended with a unique story teller is bound to be one that will attract many readers. Fangtastic.

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