Author: Lucy Coats
Publisher: Orchard Books
Publication Date: May 7, 2015
Blurb via Amazon: Her precious mother is dead – and it isn’t an accident! The young Cleopatra – Pharaoh’s illegitimate daughter – must flee the royal palace at Alexandria or die too. As her evil half-sisters usurp the throne, Cleo finds sanctuary at the sacred temple of Isis, where years later she becomes initiated into the secret Sisters of the Living Knot. But now Isis’s power is failing, Egypt is in danger, and Cleo must prove her loyalty to her goddess by returning to the Alexandria she hates. She must seek out the hidden map which is the key to returning Isis’s power – on pain of death. But will she be able to evade her horrible sisters? And will she find dreamy Khai, the über-hot Librarian boy she met as she fled Alexandria years before? Cleo’s powerful destiny is about to unfold…
Gorgeous and evocative, this captivating new YA novel imagines the life of the teenage Cleopatra before she became the icon we think we know.
Review of ‘Cleo’
Firstly, the cover of ‘Cleo’, immediately strikes me with a sense of glamour, the read popping out against the black, white and gold. It speaks to me of Egypt and makes me automatically excited to read it.
The setting of Ancient Egypt is one of my favourites whether it be in terms of the history, culture or the mythology. Lucy Coats managed to teach me new things about all of these while I was reading Cleo, so my reading experience was not only brilliant, but educational too. It is clear to me that Lucy knows her stuff. What I love most about this setting is the clashing of brutal history and ornate glamour. The incorporation of magic, although there is not a structured system, is a nice subtle touch that helps to beautifully combine history and mythology together. Lucy really does tell the story of Cleopatra like we’ve never heard it before.
The plot is very fast paced in my opinion and we are thrown in at the deep end. It didn’t take me long to find my feet and soon I was away on the adventure with Cleo and Charm. This high octane tempo is pretty much maintained the whole way through and I never felt tired of it! I was happy with the way the plot developed, intricately weaved with the mythological side of things. However, I would have loved to have seen a few more twists and turns. There was quite a lot left unanswered at the end and this only makes me more excited to read ‘Chosen’ (review coming soon). I especially enjoyed the ‘four years earlier’ section, mainly due to the fact that I didn’t have to wait until a novella was released to read Cleo’s origin story. Thanks Lucy!
All the characters in the book were unique in their own way and they came together to create a great dynamic within the book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Sometimes with characters, they just don’t click and then you end up with a book full of strained dialogue. This was not the case in ‘Cleo’. I especially thought that the relationship between Charm and Cleo was good and a key element to the story. Although Cleo could be a bit whiny at times, I genuinely liked her and how she seemed to be realistically human. The romance between Khai and Cleo started out as an ‘eye roll couple’, but later I changed my mind and grew to like them. I feel as if emotions were meant to play a bigger role in the book than they did and that the sense of adventure got in the way at times.
If you haven’t already , you should definitely read ‘Cleo’ and I look forward to reading the sequel ‘Chosen’ very soon. Without further ado, I award 4 out of 5 stars to ‘Cleo’ by Lucy Coats.
Read on for an exclusive How To Read Books interview with Lucy Coats herself!
About Lucy Coats
Lucy Coats writes for children of all ages. Her first picture book was published in 1991, and in 2004 she was shortlisted for the Blue Peter Book Prize for ‘Atticus the Storyteller’s 100 Greek Myths’. Lucy read her first book of Greek myths at the age of seven, and has been hooked on stories of all kinds ever since.
Lucy lives in rural Northamptonshire and writes looking out over green fields full of sheep. She has a deskdog called Hero who generally lies between her screen and keyboard and is very good at encouraging Lucy when the writing is going slowly. Lucy has a website at http://lucycoats.com. She also has a Facebook Author page at http://tinyurl.com/lucycoatsfacebook and a Twitter page at http://www.twitter.com/lucycoats which she visits strictly during coffee breaks, as well as being on Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram.
Lucy also teaches regular Masterclasses on How to Write for Children at The Guardian and writes for Publishing Talk and Mslexia magazine.
[Adapted from Amazon]
Exclusive Interview With Lucy Coats, Author of Cleo
As well as having the pleasure of reading ‘Cleo’, Lucy Coats was nice enough to grace us with her presence here on the How To Read Books blog. Thanks so much to Lucy for taking part in my first author interview!
Dan: Lucy, you are a fan of mythology, something we can tell from Cleo. Why do you like mythology so much?
Lucy: I’ve been obsessed with mythology since I was about 7 and my granny gave me 2 books of Greek myths. I loved the idea of a world where the gods interact with humans directly (as they do so much in the Iliad and Odyssey), and I guess that eventually fed directly into the idea of the Egyptian gods being involved in Cleo’s life. I think all those mythological stories are like the roots of a culture. Only by understanding them can you begin to understand the top growth of the culture itself.
D: Another thing we can tell from reading Cleo is that you really know your stuff, whether it be in terms of the history or the mythology. How much research did you do when writing the book?
L: Oh, the research! I LOVE research, and can get lost for hours following interesting (and sometimes irrelevant) clues which ‘might just help the book’ *ahem*. I did a mass of research for these two books, because, although there is a strong fantasy element, I wanted the actual history to be as correct as I could make it. I went back to original sources in translation where I could (and there aren’t that many) – all the descriptions of things like feasts and decor are taken from actual reports of Egypt from around that time. For the second book it was much the same (though I had that original bank of knowledge to call on). What I’m proudest of, though, is my Roman detective work. I needed to find where the house of Pompeius Magnus was (because Cleo’s dad lived next door to him), and by piecing together information from various sources, I actually managed it!
D: Something we see a lot of in YA novels is something called ‘instantaneous love’ or ‘insta-love’. In your opinion, would you consider Khai and Cleo’s love to be ‘insta-love’?
L: The knotty question of insta-love is something which has come up a lot. The thing is, I don’t actually think Cleo and Khai qualify. She meets him when she’s 10 in the library – he’s kind to this lonely, geeky princess, and then she bumps into him when she’s running away from her sisters. At a time in her life which is pretty terrible, he reminds her of a place where she was happy. Of course she’s going to remember him (and fantasise over him)! And then, over the next four years, Isis makes them walk in each other’s dreams. Although it’s not gone into in great detail, those four years of true dreams are very intense(!). So although they’re not physically together, they are pretty set up for romance when they actually do meet. Perhaps I didn’t make that clear enough, and if so, that’s my fault. Or, possibly, we can blame it all on a scheming goddess…as you’ll see in CHOSEN, the course of true love doesn’t exactly run smooth!
D: The setting of Cleo, ancient Egypt, is one of my personal favourites. As an author, what is your favourite time period and location to write about?
L: Well, I love Ancient Egypt too. It’s been a joy to explore it in my writing and I still feel very close to it. I think it’s probably fair to say that I feel most comfortable writing about the far distant past – Ancient Greece is another place I love. But I also like the fantasy territory of what Diana Wynne Jones might have called ‘the world next door but one’. That’s essentially our world, but with magic. I’m probably never going to write straight, gritty realism, that’s for sure!
D: This question might be a bit cruel, but which character is your favourite and which did you most enjoy writing?
L: Oh you ARE cruel! By the end of the two books, my favourite character in both senses was still Cleo. She was always a strong voice in my head, she often didn’t do what I wanted her to – and writing and tracking her growth as a person was something I loved doing (though she caused me a lot of headaches). I know I took a risk writing her with such a modern voice – but I wanted her to be accessible to readers.
D: Destiny and kismet play a big role in Cleo, so do you believe in these things personally?
L: I do believe in fate – but in the sense that our fate is in our own hands. We make choices for ourselves and write our own destinies by doing so. But I do think that occasionally a lucky and unexpected chance comes along. If we seize it and make the most of it, it can change our lives. Where that comes from I can’t say – but I can never shake the superstitious feeling in my Celtic blood that something inexplicable and strange is at work when that happens. Mostly though, it’s down to hard work, and hoping you’re in the right place at the right time.
D: Personality wise, which character in Cleo would you say you were most like?
L: Ooh! Nobody has ever asked me this before. I find it quite easy to answer, though. Charm is the one I’m most like, though she’s definitely only a part of me and not in any way a carbon copy. I tend to take care of people a lot, and I am the Queen of Nicknames. There’s a lot more than that to Charm, though, and what happens to her definitely casts a shadow on her sunny character. There are some more interesting developments for her in CHOSEN, so you may be surprised.
D: To any aspiring writers out there could you spread some writing wisdom?
L: What I always say is this: apply bum to seat and get the words down on paper. That’s the only way you’ll finish a book. And also: read widely – anything and everything – but read with a critical eye. Train yourself to notice what works and what doesn’t and ask yourself why that is. It will feed back into your own writing and improve it.
D: We are all excited to read the upcoming sequel to Cleo, Chosen, and see how the story continues. Was delving back into Cleo’s world a difficult process, or did you find it easy?
L: I am mega-excited that CHOSEN is out next month too. Writing a second book always has its problems, but I welcomed the chance to go into Cleo’s world again and introduce new characters and places. Of course, that meant taking me out of the comfort zone of Alexandria (which I knew so well by then) and haring off down the Nile to places like Crocodilopolis (such a great name – how could I resist?) and then into the desert proper and across the Mediterranean. Once I got going and had done all my research, I did find it quite easy. I have a permanent, film-like landscape playing in my head when I write, and I could actually see everything that was going on.
D: Finally, what can readers expect to read in Chosen? Any juicy exclusives welcome!
L: Well, no spoilers, but… There will be a new love-interest (not saying who for). There will be another famous character from history appearing – but the reaction to him won’t be what you think it might. I’ve indulged my love of murder and the undead, and of writing blood splatter and guts. My favourite new character literally somersaults onto the pages of the book. That’s all I’m saying and I hope you’re intrigued!
D: Thank you so much for doing this interview Lucy, it’s an honour.
L: Thanks so much for having me on the blog – great questions, and such fun to answer!