I love me some alt-history. I love me some Egyptian-Greco-Roman alt-history especially, so when I kept getting this listed as a recommendation, I took it.
A good chunk of this book was three star for me. It seemed a wee bit on the cheesy side (Cleopatra does a blood oath with Sekhmet and becomes a vampire? really?), but I did get into it. I see why Neil Gaiman gave it his stamp of approval (the reason why this book actually made it from a recommendation to an actual book on my to-read list). It is fantastic pop-corn.
So many of my favorite parts of the book were good surprises, so I’ll just keep it general. After Actium, when Octavian has taken the war to Egypt, Cleopatra gives her soul to Sekhmet, Egyptian goddess of destruction. After that, she’s immortal, but must feed on life for Sekhmet’s power. She goes to Rome to take care of business with Octavian/Augustus who has her children as well, and he is rightfully afraid. He surrounds himself with witches/priests/magicians (much to Agrippa’s awesome disgust) and they try to find a way to defeat her.
Everyone has their own motivation, which may or may not actually align with Octavian’s, so he has to stay alive and find a way to kill the immortal before she exacts her vengeance on Rome.
I loved that they brought in several different cultures/mythologies, and I do like that they brought in characters that are usually overlooked by most authors (Cleopatra Selene, Agrippa, etc.). It’s a great dark fantasy/history mash up.
I read (somewhere) that this is the first in a series, and I look forward to any sequels.