January 29, 2013

Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn

Talk about a punch to the gut! Of course if I knew my Roman history better it wouldn't have been. And just so I'm not leaving you completely in the dark, I am referring to the ending of this book. And that's all I'm saying on that matter.

It's been a few years since "The Mistress of Rome" and Vercingetorix (Vix) is now an ornery boy of eighteen. He leaves the safety of his parents home for Rome where he wants to join the army and make something of himself. He quickly learns that a role there is a long time though and as he makes his decision, takes a job as a guard for an old friend of his parents. There though is the intelligent and intriguing Sabina, daughter of the household, who quickly uses Vix to her own ends. After feeling betrayed he does go and join up to fight and starts making his career on the battlefield while Sabina marries for adventure. Under the rule of Emperor Trajan, a beloved Emperor of the people, they set out on their own destinies, despite a few enemies who would like to see them fall.

Vix is very brash. I was glad to see some growth and mellowing of him in the book but he always is very hard headed and at times weak in his actions. I enjoy reading about him, but sometimes I have to shake my head at some of the things he does. Sabina though, while I admired her for being adventurous, I can honestly say I didn't really like her. She seemed very selfish in some ways and not caring of other people's feelings. Still, I'd rather root for her than some of the antagonists in this story, which was really the whole point of things. I just wish I had felt more connected to her since she was a main character. I much prefer her sister as she grows up, who isn't as adventurous but appears to have a whole lot of heart. I also enjoyed the character Titus who was just self-deprecating enough to be lovable. You could only hope good things for him and I'm eager to find out what happens in his story.

I thought the plot was pretty good. It spanned quite a bit of history and while not entirely accurate (as Quinn admits and gives reasoning for) it does have a lot of good research that went into it. I tired a little of the war scenes, but the character development and non-war scenes made up for it. I guess I'm just cut out for campaigns. And it was nice to see a lot of the characters come back from the previous book. I will warn that there is violence, sex, and other such things in this book. If you don't like that sort of thing, don't read it. I personally think it makes things realistic. The writing style too is more modern, not written in an authentic voice, and rather than it detracting from historical aspects of the book, I feel that it makes it more approachable for the average reader. I will warn that the ending on this book is a cliffhanger, so readers should approach it with caution if they are reading it with still a good chunk of time left waiting for the next one to come out.

A very good book and while I didn't quite enjoy it nearly as much as Mistress of Rome, it was still entertaining. I would definitely recommend Quinn to any historical fiction fan and plan to read her next book when it comes out.

Empress of the Seven Hills
Copyright 2012
486 pages

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