I'm sorry for skipping last week. I intended to write a post Monday to make up for it... only that didn't happen.
This week I read an excellent book by Gillian Bradshaw called Cleopatra's Heir. It was a `what if' story in which Caesarion, the son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar, survived Octavian's attempt to have him executed. The book is very much a character study. Caesarion's flight forces him to depend on an Egyptian merchant named Ari, whose kindness and decency slowly change Caesarion's view of the world until Caesarion is able to let go of his destructive pride, his constant striving to live up to his parent's legacy and accept himself for the flawed person he is.
I latch onto any book with Gillian Bradshaw's name on the cover because her characters are just so likable. Her heroes are honorable, and willing to see the good in others. For example, in Cleopatra's Heir Caesarion starts out as a rather prickly character. He's used to being treated as a god, and hanging around camels is definitely a step down. But while Ari the merchant doesn't always appreciate Caesarion's attitude, he admires his bravery and willpower.
A lot of books are about friction between characters and there's plenty of friction in Cleopatra's Heir, but it's not because the characters like whining about each other. It's a pity there aren't more books out there where the characters are willing to acknowledge the things they find admirable in their friends and team-mates. It would sure make it easier for the reader to believe that the characters actually are friends.