*Review originally posted on my book blog (along with AUTHOR INTERVIEW + GIVEAWAY (ends 7/31)) @ Diamond’s Reads-- >> Author Interview + Giveaway: Cleo by Lucy Coats <<
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Cleo instantly grabbed me with its cover. I saw, Cleo and Cleopatras face with a cartoonish design and immediately gleamed it was a middle grade historical fiction book. Keeping with my historical fiction frenzy I decided to request it, and I’m so glad I did. Although I have kind of taken a break from my middle grade frenzy these past few months, I do still love the genre (and always will). In fact, reading Cleo has helped me remember why I love middle grade books so much when they’re done well. Cleo definitely did a hard thing, in my opinion. That is in the sense that to I felt like I really was reading a great historical fiction novel…but more importantly, I just felt I was reading a story. A story of Cleopatra and how she had to flee the palace in fear for her life just minutes after her mother was pronounced dead. Talk about exciting!
The pacing of this book was excellent. Pacing has been so important to me lately due to my busy schedule. I don’t really give every book 100 pages to “warm up” to anymore like I used to. If I do it just sits there and collects dust and builds guilt in my stomach for not finishing another book. Which is why I can’t skip the fact that this book had me pretty much glued to my kindle as the events unfolded. Another thing rarely accomplished in middle grade to a seasoned middle grade reader like myself aka old.
KEEP ME GUESSING UNTIL THE END.
And boy, did this book do that. Almost infuriatingly so, to be honest. Why do I say infuriating? Well, probably because I thought things would be tied up with a nice big fat bow on the top at the end. NOT SO! There’s not so much a cliffhanger, as a what the heck moment at the end that I seriously did NOT see coming. It makes me so happy though when this happens in MG books though because I always feel like I know what is going to come. Especially with an adventure story such as this.
Then again, Cleo is so much more than just an adventure story. It’s the story of Cleopatra and her best friend/slave and her survival traveling across the land to finally become a priestess of the goddess. There is some magical elements n the book, that are really really freaking cool!! For instance, the gods and goddess can show their favor openly to anyone/everyone. So some random girl can walk into a room and maybe, if she’s in danger or something, a god can show that they favor her by having a brightly lit symbol of said god glow above her! I thought that was really cool. Besides these little nuances, the ancient Egyptian world was extremely close to our own, in history. I felt it was very believable from the historical aspect. In fact, a little too believable [see interview below].
While Cleo can “see” gods / goddesses, it’s not something anyone knows. She hides this vey rare and valuable gift, although it doesn’t really come to play more than in a cursory sense, same as her being favorited by the goddess is more like a burden to be honest, and Cleo doesn’t hold herself above others (much). In case like me you kind of are bored by these heroines/heroes born with special magical powers that just save them from everything while they do literally nothing of accomplishment and at the end reap all benefit and priase. *eye roll* THIS is NOT that type of book.
While there is a love interest, Khai isn’t in a lot of the story until the end. I actually really really liked it because (another tricky feat) it felt like a genuine middle grade love blossoming. It didn’t feel too advanced or too juvenile. It really seemed natural and cute and there were tons of “awww!” moments that I just loved (especially since Khai’s a librarian!!!!)
The “villains” AKA “Evil Sow Sisters” are Cleopatra’s two half sisters who take the throne after her mother passes away (her father, the Pharaoh is in Rome). Those two…wow, what can I say? I’ll keep it short by saying they were excellent villians. They had depth (one more likable than the other), personality, evil geniuses, and I could see why they decided to turn to evil. Sometimes characters are just “evil” for the sake of “evil” and I always think “why? what enticed them to this lifestyle?” I really am anxious to see what happens in the next book with the whole family situation.
Oh did I not mention? THERE IS A SEQUEL. Yes, as I mentioned earlier, the ending really had me surprised. Not only due to the plot twist, but because I had NO idea there was going to be a second book! That kind of bummed me out, because I felt like I was purposefully manipulated. Although, obviously, that is far from the truth! lol. I just didn’t know. So it took me totally off guard and yeah, now I am pretty much in hives dying trying to figure out what will happen with Cleo and Co. in the next book, Chosen!
I really recommend this book. I heard some reviewers saying it didn’t have enough “historical language” and I have to disagree. I’ve read adult historical fiction books with less historically accurate language than Cleo (ahem, MJ Rose, I love you …but..yeah). I never once felt like, oh, are we back in the 21st century now? That is my biggest thing. If the language sucks me out of the time period and morphs me back into my living room glancing at my gadgets like what? Well, then we have a problem with the language. If the language, however, is subtle enough to keep me in the past engrossed fully with the story, characters, setting, plot, and atmosphere. Well, then, that is a success in my eyes. Cleo did that 100% and it was heavenly to get lost in a book again. It’s been awhile.
I recommend this book to those who love historical fantasy books and strong, flawed, female heroines who don’t have an easy way of things. There is strong mythology and the setting is amazing. If you love imagining how Egypt was during the time of the Pharaohs (plus some magic mixed in), then you need to read Cleo