Not so much a biography of the queen as a basic history of the rise of Rome.
Crime writer and historian Trow (Ripper Hunter: Abberline and the Whitechapel Murders, 2012, etc.) admits that the sources for learning about Cleopatra are few; there are no letters, not even a bit of gossip. The Egyptians were fantastic record keepers, but only for the purpose of knowing their wealth and the tax rolls. The story begins with Alexander the Great clearing the Persians out of Egypt, but the narrative focuses more on his general, Ptolemy, who stole his corpse and founded Alexandria and the 300-year dynasty that ended with Cleopatra. Ptolemy’s Egyptian kingdom was rich and Alexander’s library already world-famous while Romans were still living in mud huts on the Tiber. Cleopatra lived in a civilization where women owned property in their own right, were educated alongside their brothers and ran their own businesses. The expansion of the Roman Empire through the feats of Julius Caesar (as extolled by himself) proves to be a marked contrast to the playboy image that Trow paints of Mark Antony. The two men Cleopatra cleverly persuaded to protect her empire both forfeited their lives for her.
The author writes in a conversational, rarely pedantic style, freely quoting authors such as Joann Fletcher and Stacy Schiff, and the book is a painless primer leading up to the Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt Cleopatra film.