Thursday, 26 February 2015

Book Review: Cleo

Cleo by Lucy Coats

3 stars

Fans of ancient Egypt who can persist through a shaky start.

Her precious mother is dead - and it isn't an accident! The young Cleopatra - Pharaoh's illegitimate daughter - must flee the royal palace at Alexandria or die too. 

As her evil half-sisters usurp the throne, Cleo finds sanctuary at the sacred temple of Isis, where years later she becomes initiated into the secret Sisters of the Living Knot. But now Isis's power is failing, Egypt is in danger, and Cleo must prove her loyalty to her goddess by returning to the Alexandria she hates. She must seek out the hidden map which is the key to returning Isis's power - on pain of death. But will she be able to evade her horrible sisters? And will she find dreamy Khai, the über-hot librarian boy she met as she fled Alexandria years before? Cleo's powerful destiny is about to unfold...


Firstly, I am grateful for the review copy, but it contained missing letter pairs. I’ll try and not let it affect my review.

At the start, I didn’t like it very much. I thought Cleo was a bit of a whiner, the scene was poorly set, and although a lot of Egyptian terms were dropped in here and there, it didn’t feel like the characters were in Egypt. At the start, sometimes the narrative became very general, sweeping over details like a diary extract. The evil sisters also begin rather one dimensional, ‘bad because they’re evil and want to rule’ and might as well have been the same person.

It got better. The plot spices up. Cleo is under constant threat and those closest to her are far from safe. Her relationship with Charm, her slave, also made me warm up to her over time. Even the one dimensional badies developed a little and started to separate out. And without the setting jumping around so much, the Egyptian charm came through.

Most of all, I felt that Cleo grew as a character. She stops asking ‘why’ and starts taking action. The scenes where she faces her sisters in political power struggles were among my favourite in the book, as we got to see Cleo take a few risks and stand up against evil. Some parts reminded me of the House of Night series, especially when Cleo asks for her goddess, Isis, to help in times of need. I hope that as the series goes on, Cleo will depends less and less on her Goddess and will learn to just act her will.

There’s something about the writing that feels very weak in places. Even for a review copy, there was a lot of word repetition, (for example, prostrate, soft, and fingers drove me insane), and yet other times Coats displays originality and flare.

My main issue was that, whilst a lot of the descriptions are colourful and creative, not much care has been put into the setting. This is an Egyptian tale and I wanted to feel like I was in the middle of a great Egyptian palace, and it just didn’t feel like that. However, it's clear that the author knows her stuff, and I enjoyed the references to the gods and symbolism. The info in the back was great to sift through, and I'm glad it was extra detail rather than necessary information needed in order to understand the story.

For a début author, this is alright. Not bad. The thought of hearing about teen Cleopatra is such a great concept that it might have set up false expectations of the book. I still enjoyed it.

Available: May