by Jeannie Mancini | 2/12/2014
" In 30 BC, Rome's Emperor Octavian lays seige on Egypt's famous city of Alexandria, evoking rage from the beautiful Queen Cleopatra. When Octavian tricks her into believing her husband Marc Antony comitted suicide, the depth of her pain and wrath causes her to summon Rome's historian Nicholaus the Damascene. She asks him for a spell, one to summon up the Egyptian Goddess of Death and Destruction, Sekhmet. Upon her success, Cleopatra stands before Sekhmet willing to do anything to bring Marc Antony back to the living world, and then and there sells her soul. Not quite understanding what she will sacrifice or loose in the bargain, Cleopatra gets a rude awakening when Sekhmet turns her into an immortal. Shapeshifter, vampire, creature, a demon to be wreckoned with. Marc Antony returns to his living body, only to be tricked again and a second time killed. Losing her lover once more, Cleopatra now rages war with Rome and Octavian, hell bent on revenge for the loss of her country and her husband. Losing control of herself, Cleopatra commences to now follow the path of a ravenous killer, rage penetrating her every passing minute, deeply suffering from her loss of Antony, her children, and her home.
When at first it appears that Cleopatra had become a bloodthirsty vampire, I was excited to find a new author with an inventive twist on the love story of Marc Antony and Cleopatra, as well as a clever new twist on the ever popular vampire theme. But for this reader, the story soon fell short of my expectations, and although I managed to finish the story, I was greatly disappointed.
Maria Dahvana Headley writes well. There is no doubt in my mind that she has great potential to be a remarkable storyteller, and author for the future if she continues to write. I have given the book two stars. One star for writing ability and style, and the other star for creativity. I am a reader who loves creativity in all of areas of the arts, but especially within books for it is difficult to come up with a new idea that has not been tackled before by thousands upon thousands of authors in the past. Headley has great depth and a grand command of the language, vocabulary, and has the ability to provide a literary achievement with her talented writing style. The clever idea of making Cleopatra a paranormal being and with that, pulling in many mythical gods and goddesses from Roman, Egyptian and Greek Mythology, was also very inventive. Two stars well earned.
However, in my opinion, the book falls short on character development, plot, and focus. The story is told and seen through the eyes of way too many characters leaving the reader never getting close to any one of them. These many characters tend to pop in and pop out at random times with no rhyme or reason and never stay long enough to offer any value. In fact, Cleopatra herself, shows up very little through most of the novel until the grand finale. I can say that I felt the same with the players pulled from Mythology. Too many of them, not enough individual attention to give them worth to the story or as important key players to the novel. This melee becomes a big pot of stew that is stirred way too much creating a story without focus and one that tends to ramble on going nowhere to the point of often spiraling out of control. The author continually brought characters in and out with no purpose; neither for the current scene or as an important key to linking of the story as a whole as it unraveled. Poor Marc Antony was brought back from the dead so many times only to be returned again and again to the underworld that it just made no sense. Everytime I thought he was going to be kept alive he got tossed over the edge again. Each time he was resurrected I rooted for him and his love for Cleopatra only to be disappointed repeatedly and left with an ending that led to pure frustration.
The story felt to me like it had no redeeming life to it. Chaos, pain, suffering, lost love, violence, revenge, hatred, and death. 397 pages of it. There were no happy moments to combat the sadness. No love was brought to light after much darkness and loss. No life renewed after many violent deaths. The story needed balance, some good to battle evil, and angel or two to beat the devils of the underworld. The final showdown that finally ends this long and drawn out war of the gods, is a bloody battle I found over the top and unecessary. Truthfully I found the ending predictable and unredeeming after such a long haul of despair. What the author decided to do with the fate of Cleopatra and Marc Antony's two sons, was the last kicker for me. Was their fate truly necessary? Did it add value or make this story more likeable? Did it make any sense or give the story more purpose? Not in this reader's eyes. What was the point of the destiny she chose for them?
Because of the two strong stars I give the author for creativity and writing ability I would be very willing to try Headley's next attempt to see if there is improvement in other areas, but for me Queen of Kings just didn't happen. I felt she had a great idea but was not able to follow through with it in order to make the novel make sense, or to turn it into a winner. The beginning was intriguing, but I felt it went downhill very rapidly only to end in a very sad heap. "