This is a novelette centered around Princess Arsinoe II of Egypt. She is known in history as a highly political and influential female ruler, her public life marked by calculated plans and schemes for power. None of this is the topic of the book in question.
The novelette is concerned with the making of Arsinoe- it outlines her early life, and her personality in childhood and youth. She is shown as a very soft-hearted young girl who wants nothing more than love and acceptance, even from those who are cruel to her. She is naive, and clearly has no understanding or appetite for the play of power that underlines all interactions and relationships in the court and the royal family.
But she pays a huge price for her naivette, and her lack of political sense. And this is the climax of the book-it leads the reader up to the point where Arsinoe vows for the first time to make her enemies suffer. And with that, the naive princess dies and the scheming queen presumably takes birth.
What strikes me most is the length of the book- it is under 60 pages. Yet, it is effective. I tried to think about what suffers as a result of the short length of the book, and I couldn’t think of anything. All the personalities, inter-relationships, agendas and dynamics are clear and engaging. Perhaps the emotional appeal gets heightened the more time the reader spends with the characters. But the novelette doesn’t suffer on account of its length at all.