Antony and Cleopatra

Upon Julius Caesar’s assassination, his heir, Octavian, and former ally Mark Antony find themselves in an intense power struggle. Antony’s affair with Egypt’s Cleopatra — who desires the Roman crown for her own son — leads Octavian to question Antony’s allegiance to Rome. Civil war soon erupts. The dense seventh novel in Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series, Antony and Cleopatra, struggles early on with distracting historical detail (do we need the layout of Octavian’s palace?) and Cleopatra’s puzzling absence. But once she finds her sandaled footing, McCullough delivers an impassioned novel whose pages don’t turn fast enough. B+

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