Monday, April 4, 2011

Cleopatra, by Henry Rider Haggard

Title: Cleopatra
Author: Henry Rider Haggard
Rating: 4/5 Riots
Format: Kindle

Price: Free

Plot Blurb: Originally published in 1889, Cleopatra is the story of Harmachis, a Pharaoh of Egyptian lineage secretly conspiring against the manipulative, petulant and beautiful Cleopatra, the last of the Egyptian Pharaohs. The priests prepare Harmachis for his destiny: assassinate the Greek pretender Cleopatra and seize the throne for the glory of Egypt, but can Harmachis resist the seductive machinations of his enemy?

Review: This is a thoroughly entertaining romp through the dusk of Ancient Egypt as seen through the eyes of Harmachis, the real Pharaoh in a Kingdom that is being drained of her riches by the extravagant Cleopatra. The plot is a solid one, and it is an interesting twist on the well-known Mark Antony and Cleopatra love story.

Haggard is quite good at his craft. The emotion is well-conveyed and Harmachis is a wholly sympathetic character. When he falls in love with Cleopatra, we do as well. When she betrays him, that knife cuts us just as deep.

Where Haggard really shows his literary chops, however, is in the style of the language: the story is written as if it were translated from hieroglyphics that were pulled from a dusty papyrus scroll. This gives the story a feeling of authenticity that I found enjoyable, but I will readily admit that this might not be everyone's cup of cesium.  Here's an excerpt:
I, Harmachis, who cast aside the opening flower of our hope, who turned from the glorious path, who forgot the voice of God in hearkening to the voice of woman.
Reminiscent of Budge!

As for formatting issues, the text seems a little crowded during chapter and section transitions as there are no blank lines, but it's nothing that can't be easily ignored. The rest of the formatting is pretty solid.