I’m going to start with what I really like about this book, because it’s always nice to start your day off with a positive note, and I kind of feel like Kate Quinn and I could be friends. In another lifetime. Maybe. I mean, we have similar interests, similar styles, and oh yes, we work with thematic elements that bear more than a passing resemblance to each other. Yes, I think we could be friends.
First of all, the setting is fantastic. First century Rome? I’m totally there. Seriously, I felt like I should be bossing around my own slave. Or rather, I would probably be the slave and likely would have been thrown in a ditch for impertinence. Now, the dialogue, I’m not going to lie, it threw me off at first. I’m a huge fan of Spartacus, and while the dialogue on the show confused me for the first twenty minutes or so of the first episode, it is what I have come to expect from anything set in the time period. It’s not the fault of anyone, it’s just what my brain expects now. And the dialogue is positively modern, but it works. Another thing that works remarkably well is the shifting perspective. When I first saw that we were not only jumping first person perspectives, we were also throwing in some third person, I gave it a leery eye. No one would be able to convince me that this was a good idea. Well, I’m sorry to say that I’m still not one hundred percent convinced that it’s a good idea, but Kate Quinn managed to make it work remarkably well.
Now, I do want to talk about the characters a bit, considering that two of them were in first person, they really were the driving force behind the novel and how the clashing personalities of all the characters shaped the world. There are two characters in particular I want to focus on, and only one of them is a major character. I have to say, while he only served a minor role in the book, I think I fell in love with Trajan the first time he appeared. If there was a sequel all about him, I’d read it. Do not underestimate the depth of my feelings for this character. It’s like Ferrante, all over again, only, you know, they were two separate historical figures. But seriously, this guy’s thing is that pretty boys are far less trouble than women. Amen. Seriously, if half the women in Rome are anything like the female characters we are introduced to, then quite frankly, he’s the only one in this book that makes any sense.
Next I want to talk about Thea, and warning, this is the only negative thing I have to say about this entire book. Now, I’m not really opposed to the idea of her character, because the idea behind her is actually really great, but I think too much was added on to her. So much so that I actually found her quite annoying, and quite frankly, didn’t care what happened to her. Also bothersome, it seems every time something bad happens to someone around her, it comes around that it was always Lepida’s fault. For a character whose base construct is a person with severe survivor’s guilt, you would think that when something bad happened to someone around her because of something she did, she would, you know, agonize over it a little bit more. Or at all. We spend so much time in her head, but there’s never any guilt about anything later. I mean, I don’t want to read 600 pages of her angsting, but I would have at least liked some acknowledgement. Like, “wow, I just got this guy killed”, not more of the same stuff she’s been angsting over for the past 300 pages. Oh, and my last problem with her is trivial, but I also get annoyed when characters have more than two people in love with them at the same time. Are there no other women any where else on the planet? I mean, I can handle two, sure, that’s your basic love triangle, but anything more than that is just ridiculous. And that goes for any book, not just this one. I mean, I totally would have bought Paulinus helping her because he was a decent guy, not because he banged her back when she was the world’s greatest singer, or whatever.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the book. I read it all, gave it four stars, and will more than likely be reading the sequel (Mostly because Thea’s not in it). A stunning read for anyone who’s looking for good historical fiction.