Historical set in Egypt after the defeat of Marcus Antonius, without the supernatural trappings of Bradshaw’s Wolf Hunt (2001, etc.) and with epilepsy now replacing lycanthropy.
As Julius Caesar’s acknowledged bastard and Cleopatra’s heir, exiled Caesarion might well be in line for titles claimed by Octavian, the new emperor. Cleopatra is now a prisoner, Egypt is a Roman province, and Caesarion, bearing sword wounds, awakes on a fresh funeral pyre the Romans don’t want to light until evening. He slips away into the desert and, following a camel track, is taken in by the Egyptian master of a small caravan. Ari is bound for Berenike, the port at which Cleopatra has arranged for ships to meet and carry her son to safety. But once there, Caesarion finds that the ships have been impounded by Rome. Still recovering from his wounds, he has no money, only a gold pin. He also, like his father, has epileptic seizures when overcharged with excitement and needs the constant care of an herbal remedy in his amulet. Being the palace-raised son of a queen favored by Isis, Caesarion is an unbearable 18-year-old snob, but Bradshaw slowly allows him to become more democratic and open to common folk like Ari, who feeds, shelters, and ministers to him without expectation of repayment. Not the greedy camel-driver Caesarion first thinks, Ari refuses the gold pin and asks only that the boy write letters for him. Later, in mourning for his mother and ill from his epilepsy, Caesarion saves Ari, who has been arrested and charged with anti-Roman sentiment. When his flight brings him face to face with Octavian, Caesarion acts nobly and wins the freeborn Melanthe.
Moves well, with a steady flow of detail, but for artistic immediacy falls below such pop classics as Mika Waltari’s The Egyptian (1949)—not to mention Wild Bill Shakespeare’s purple play.