Hand of Isis by Jo Graham

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Hand of Isis by Jo Graham

Buy Hand of Isis by Jo Graham at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Loralei Haylock
Reviewed by Loralei Haylock
Summary: Blending historical fact with a twist of the supernatural, Hand of Isis moves deftly through the wars and politics that shaped Cleopatra's remarkable life. A rich and decadent novel.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 528 Date: March 2009
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841497006

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Once long ago, three sisters were born in the same year. All were children of the Pharaoh Ptolemy Auletes, the eldest born to a serving woman, the middle to his Queen, the youngest to a slave from Thrace, who died in childbirth. The middle child, of little consequence when born, being the forth legitimate child of the Pharaoh and a girl, would one day become Egypt's most famous Queen. Her name was Cleopatra.

Charmian, the youngest child, was raised with her older sister, Iras, by Iras' mother, until they are given by their father to Cleopatra to be her companions – at first playmates, later handmaidens. When Auletes dies, and succession is left to his bickering children, Charmian and Iras flee with Cleopatra to Bubastis lest she become the target of an assassin's knife.

In Bubastis, the three girls make a pact with Isis, to be Her hands, to restore the Black Land to its former glory, with Cleopatra on the throne. Charmian and Iras pledge their lives to their sister, vowing to serve at her side through all the perils to come. With the kingdom mortgaged to Rome, the vast empire lead by Julius Caesar, and three further heirs of Auletes, born to his second wife, clamouring for their claim to the throne, those perils will not be few and far between.

If historical fiction is not your thing, don't be put off. I'm no expert on the Ancient Egyptians – I only vaguely remember what I learnt in primary school. I thought this might cause me problems, but Hand of Isis is surprisingly easy to read considering you're dropped right in the deep end (and all the Egyptians have the same names). Even the least educated about the time could get their teeth into this book.

And it's a great book – really engaging and hard to put down. While Graham certainly doesn't shy away from the historical details, her prose is so easy to digest you just absorb it all as you read. Blending historical fact with a twist of the supernatural, she moves deftly through the wars and politics that shaped Cleopatra's remarkable life, never leaving the reader floundering.

With description and characters that really bring the time and place to life, Hand of Isis is perfect for enjoying while basking in the sun outside. A novel as rich and decadent as the Black Land itself.

My thanks to the publishers for sending a copy.

If you like historical fiction, certainly check out Jo Graham's debut novel, Black Ships. For another book about a prominent female historical figure, try Helen of Troy by Margaret George.

Booklists.jpg Hand of Isis by Jo Graham is in the Top Ten Books For Your Mother.
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