book reviews by Althea

The Shards of Heaven – Michael Livingston ***

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The Shards of Heaven
The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that would translate very well to the big screen.

Set after the death of Julius Caesar, the book concerns the war that breaks out after his death, with Cleopatra and Marc Antony, with Caesar’s son Caesarion, on one side and Caesar’s great-nephew Octavian on the other. With Octavian is also Juba – Caesar’s adopted son, the natural son of the conquered king of Numidia.

All that is historical fact. The fiction arises here with the device that Juba is secretly plotting revenge for his father’s defeat. The fantasy aspect comes in with Juba’s discovery – and ability to use – the magical artifact known to some as the Trident of Poseidon. The item has supernatural power over the element of water – and has the potential to be a devastating asset, especially in naval battles. Octavian mercilessly pushes the young Juba to use the device – and is on a quest to collect the rumored other ‘shards of heaven’ to ensure his decisive victory.

We’ve got good use of less ‘historically important’ characters to fill out the story: the scribe Didymus, a couple of ‘ordinary’ foot soldiers, Cleopatra’s daughter Cleopatra Selene as a child… I also liked the inclusion of different cultures and religions – Egyptian, Roman, and early Judeo-Christian.

The exotic setting, the magical elements, and the plentitude of action would all translate well to a great historical action film. However, as a book I wished I felt closer to the characters emotionally, and I wanted more complexity to their portrayal. I also wasn’t thrilled with the portrayal of Cleopatra – she’s stunningly beautiful, but gets disrespected and pushed around a lot by everyone around her, and just seems overly emotional in too many of her scenes, rather than as strong and ruthless as she likely was.

Still, an enjoyable historical/fantasy/action tale.

Many thanks to Tor and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.

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