Review: Cleopatra Ascending by Maureen Lipinski
Published January 8th 2013 by Flux
Received a review copy from the publisher on Netgalley
Cleopatra Ascending is fast, almost too much so. Covering 223 pages, this young-adult paranormal thriller is straight-up non-complex fiction, easy to read and get lost in.
Rhea has always known she was a reincarnation of Cleopatra, the Egyptian queen, but it had never seemed interesting. Her family consists of witches and shamans, and Rhea is boringly human – until her sixteenth birthday. On an otherwise dull day, she discovers she is part of an ancient curse, which only she can break.
Although Cleopatra Ascending is the second book in the Shadow’s Edge series, it is perfectly understandable without having read the first book. The earlier book focusses on one of Rhea’s sisters, making Cleopatra a fresh story only loosely connected to it. Unlike many young-adult books, Rhea already has an established relationship at the beginning of the book. Despite the fact that a second teenage guy is introduced in the course of the book, a love-triangle never forms, leaving the original relationship as the focus of romantic interest. I liked how the issues Rhea and Slade faced were related to their circumstances, and not the addition of another hot guy.
Rhea is very much a teenager, which is an advantage or a drawback, based on your perspective. She is concerned with mundane things like being grounded, seeing friends, and smooching her boyfriend, and the world-ending stuff doesn’t make her forget these things. Perhaps she reads as “stupid” for not taking the treats on her life seriously, but I actually found her resistance realistic. No matter how surrounded you are with the paranormal, saving the world must not come easily to everyone.
The weakest aspect of the book is the mythology. Rhea receives visions from her previous life, but these do not extend beyond the aesthetic and plot-related elements. There was very little to learn about history or Egyptian culture or even Cleopatra herself. It feels like a missed opportunity, as there is so much material to work with, and I feel that the book would have had a better grounding if it had drawn more from mythology and history. As it is, the plot seems flimsy and filled with an almost cartoonlike distinction between good and evil. It is serviceable, and propels the story toward a satisfying conclusion, but it doesn’t leave much of an impression.
On the other hand, this does mean that Cleopatra Ascending is accessible even for readers who find history incredibly dull and are looking for a high-stakes adventure featuring a girl-next-door teen protagonist.
Trigger warnings (highlight to show): violence. Some characters are killed by a bomb. Characters use veils to disguise themselves, and I am unsure whether the portrayal of this was handled sensitively enough.
Sweet Sixteen = You’re a Queen
Despite living with a shaman, a witch, and a muse for sisters, Rhea Spencer feels like a normal teenager-even if she is the reincarnation of Cleopatra. But all that changes on Rhea’s sixteenth birthday, when her visions of the Egyptian queen start unraveling a very different version of history, and Declan, a hot representative of the secret Order of Antony, shows up on the doorstep to keep her from being kidnapped. Together, Rhea and Declan travel to Egypt to stop the Octavians, a dark cabal trying to tap into Rhea’s growing powers. The cabal seeks to access the magic deep below the desert sands, a potentially devastating force that only Rhea can protect.
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