(Note: I had a super awesome review all done–right before WordPress somehow ate it. Please excuse the delay. And the screams you heard earlier? That was just me, losing it on the Internets. I took our author Courtney Cole’s advice and had some chocolate. It’s safe now.)
“Every Last Kiss” by Courtney Cole is the first in The Bloodstone Saga. And honestly, I think she might have written this specifically for me without knowing it. Like, I designed, named, and did costumes and makeup for my marching band show in senior year of high school because it was based on Ancient Egypt (Yeah, Marching Band, I said it. Colorguard Captains forever!) I have always been obsessed with Ancient Egyptian history and culture. I also knew that if reincarnation really existed, I would most certainly be in Cleopatra’s close circle (though as a teen, I simply HAD to be Cleopatra. Then again, don’t all 16 year old, dramatic high schoolers who believe in reincarnation have to be someone historically famous?)
As it turns out, our protagonist, 17 year old Macy Lockhart, was Cleopatra’s personal handmaiden, her closest confidante and friend. Macy is a Keeper in the ancient organization, the Order of the Moirae. As a modern teenager, she doesn’t remember a thing because her memories are wiped clean in every life until it is time for her cycle to start again. In two thousand years, there’s never been a problem, until now, of course. Fate, the very thing that Macy was born to keep, is being tampered with and she has only one choice: to return to her previous life as Cleopatra’s handmaiden, Charmian. She has to put history back on track, but at a cost: Her soul mate will die leading Marc Antony’s forces against Rome. Can she really stand aside and allow the love of her life to die all over again?
Without giving too much plot and details away (because I insist you read it for yourself), I first and foremost want to say that Cole’s research paid off. I can only guess the amount of hours she spent learning details of Cleopatra’s life and looks, but it doesn’t stop there. The settings of Ancient Egypt are described and let’s just say that despite my love for modern conveniences, I wished I could be whisked away to Cole’s land of nectar and honey. I haven’t written any books about Ancient Egypt, but I’ve read a TON of them and Cole did a great job of getting the information down without making it clunky or like an educational lesson. I feel confident I could quiz Cole on her Cleopatra knowledge and she’d ace it!
Her descriptions are fantastic. I want to be friends with Cleopatra, put my hands all over (and uh, I do actually mean all over) Hasani, our protagonist’s warrior soul mate, eat figs with Marc Antony on the barge, and touch the softs fabrics they all wear. And honestly, one of my favorite things about the way Cole writes (and this is very nerdy writer of me to say), is the way she shows instead of tells. The way she writes her characters makes me know them, care about them, laugh when they laugh…I became invested in them, grew to love them and know their quirks as well as Charmian does. For example:
“She [Cleopatra]…turned to me. “Do I look alright?” She looked beautiful, as she normally did, her elaborate black wig piled high onto her head and her thin shoulders gleaming in the candlelight. But I straightened her diadem anyway, because if I didn’t make some sort of last-minute adjustment, she would worry that she didn’t look perfect. Another trait of hers that history books had not captured…she was a perfectionist in every way.”
When I highlighted this section, it was because it resonated with me even through to the end. I loved the description-it shows me so much about Cleopatra, gives me such a sense of who she is, that I wondered if her perfectionism should, in fact, be included in history books! Small things like this one tiny paragraph give me everything I need to know about her characters.
And the soul mate romance? Man. I’m not the girly, mushy, gotta have romance novelist. But Cole does it in such a way that it feels natural, never gooey or over the top. Despite Macy/Charmian technically being a teenager, it never feels like a teenage romance. I also appreciated Cole’s taste when it came to the characters’ passion–considering it’s a YA novel (more on that in a sec), I wasn’t sure how she’d go about explaining that Charmian and Hasani, both around 39 year old in the Egyptian times, have a very sexual relationship. It was never in your face–just enough so that you know what’s up (and kinda swoon at the idea of a naked Hasani. Yum!).
Possibly the most interesting part of the novel was the fact that while it’s technically a YA novel, it crosses over into Adult novel territory. In our world, Macy is 17, but in the past, she’s 39 (a svelte, teen sized 39 year old, but it IS plausible to imagine fit, good looking Egyptians when there’s no McDonald’s around). I usually have a hard time finding great YA novels that adults can read, too. The transition from these two was almost invisible–I fully accepted that her past life was an adult one, with adult situations. There’s sex, blood, and violence, but done in such a way that I would feel comfortable recommending it to my adult coworkers as much as I would to a teenage little sister.
All in all…great read. (If you couldn’t already tell by my breathless enthusiasm for it, ya know.) It’s everything I want in a paranormal YA read and then some. Honestly–go get your copy right now and read her so we can discuss it because there’s so much more I want to gush about–but I won’t ruin the surprises and fun!
Coming up soon, not one, but TWO interviews with the talented Courtney Cole as well as a review of her second book in the Bloodstone Saga series “Fated”.