Sometimes I am punished by karma for judging books by their covers. Though I was truly looking forward to reliving my childhood fixation on Ancient Egypt, I mostly requested an ARC of Cleo because the cover was so puurrrty. Note to self: Stop doing this.
Cleo is about a young Cleopatra whose mother has just died and whose father is playing politics in Greece. Her two half sisters take over the dual-throne of Egypt and so doing threaten the blessing of future of the country because they worship Am-Heh, the god of evil. Cleo, as the goddess Isis’s chosen one, must complete a quest and help Isis regain her full power.
There were so many things I disliked about this book, but I think most of the problems could be solved by going through a heavy round of editing. If I were the editor, here’s what I would tell Lucy Coats to do:
Cut out redundant information. For example, whenever something not all sparkles and sunshine is happening (in a landscape description, with an action scene, with vegetables) there is a sentence explaining that Isis is loosing power and that’s why life isn’t unicorn farts. After the second mention, I will be able to make the connection without the author holding my hand.
Cut down on the constant inner monologue. The book is written in the first-person perspective, and Cleo has lots of secret information that she can’t tell anyone, but she chatters so incessantly in her own mind that I my introverted self was getting annoyed with the author. And it wasn’t just chatter, it was repetitive questions that Cleo never asks aloud and the audience is not supposed to answer. Let me give you an example from the text:
“How long did we have? I didn’t know. It must be late in the evening — but had we passed over into the day when the Dark Feast of Serapis dawned?”
Since this 320 page book is about 20% questions, a rewrite without the questions makes this much more palatable. Here’s my suggestion:
It was late in the evening now, and I wasn’t sure how much time we had before the dawn of the Dark Feast of Serapis arrived.
Do not make this story into two parts. The book ends with “To be continued…” when there is absolutely no need. Additionally, it’s broken at a really awkward place: right after the group has successfully escaped the city with the important things they need and are on their way to deliver the important things to Isis. Fifty more pages and this story is over! Sure, more plot points can be introduced, but that’s just prolonging the inevitable. If you must, make book two about Cleo on the throne and finish book one’s adventure where it started. Yeah, there’s the issue of this book becoming a 500 page tome, but if Cleo’s questions got cut out and the repetitive information was condensed into more dignified sentences, this book would still be under 300 pages.
Cleo hits shelves May 7, so unfortunately my edits won’t be taken into account ;) I’m willing to be hired on future projects though!
Note: Orchard Books gave me an e-ARC for review purposes but that obviously didn't change my honest opinion.