Benjamin Thomas's Reviews > Mistress of Rome

Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn
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's review
Aug 26, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction, historical-fiction-rome, advanced-reading-copy
Read in March, 2010

This is a flat-out fun novel to read. It's an historical novel, taking place during the reign of Emporer Domitian, the last of the Flavian dynasty in Rome, but it doesn't read like many historical novels do; i.e. it isn't overly filled with scenes painting the picture of life in ancient Rome but rather it reads much more like a movie. There are several major characters who all act as POV characters at different times but the main one is Thea, a Jewish slave girl who rises to the very heights of Roman society as the Emporer's mistress. Other major characters include a gladiator barbarian, and a spiteful heiress named Lepida Pollia. There is a good mix of fictional characters intermingled with historical persons but you'll have to look in the appendix to know which is which unless you're a Roman scholar.

Basically, the novel is a well-plotted soap opera of intrigue. There is plenty of blood spilled (not all in the gladiator arena), lust, conniving, backstabbing betrayals, assassination attempts, jealousy and old fashioned romance. The story itself really grabbed me and kept me turning the pages, wanting to find out what happened next and I found the characters to be multi-dimensional for the most part. I did have a bit of a problem with the constant switching back and forth among the POV characters as it wasn't always perfectly clear when the change happened. It can really throw the reader off kilter when they must switch from one first person POV paragraph to another, also in first person, but from a different character's persepective. Still, I really enjoyed this one and even though this novel is a complete stand-alone book, the "Historical Note" at the end hinted at a sequel to come. I'll be in line to read that if and when it happens.
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