Zee's Reviews > Mistress of Rome

Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn
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Mar 03, 2012

really liked it
Read on March 03, 2012

This review contains no spoilers.

This could be one of the most interesting (Western) historical fiction I have ever read.

This book was set in the Flavian Dynasty of Rome. Some characters were fictional, some were not. The story spanned over a decade within the boundary of approximately 450 pages (without cramping of words). It revolved around a few characters: Emperor (Titus Flavius Domitianus), Thea (the Jewish slave), Lepida Pollia (mistress of Thea), Arius (gladiator), Marcus Norbanus (Senator). The development might be perceived as slow to some, but the build-up was pertinent for the story, as each year unfold. I do not like the frequent usage of first-hand narration/monologues of a central character's thoughts and whims, and this novel didn't rely much of that to tell the story. Thankfully.

Being the first ever historical fiction based in Rome that I read, I found it a challenge to imagine the characters walking around in tunics (men and women alike), instead of the usual gowns, robe, and capes. Also, instead of seeing monarchical hierarchies of earls, counts, kings, queens, viscounts, guards, you will see emperor, empress, domina, senator, domina, praetorian.. but it wasn't hard to make association to the English counterparts. On hindsight it was pretty funny that I had to "adjust" my visuals of the story from that of an English setting to that of a Rome setting's. Thankfully I had set foot in the Colosseum just last summer - it helped me in creating the visuals of the unmerciful killing place. I couldn't have imagined the dank, coolness of the Colosseum's interior better had I not been there. Its true - even on a hot summer day, the vacant spaces of Colosseum's interior was dank and dark, almost chilly.

Speaking of which - It was kind of difficult for me to stomach the parts on the gladiatorial games in the Colosseum initially. Not because the author wrote it with explicit gore, but because the idea of man killing man and man killing beasts for the sake of providing entertainment made me sick. The amorality of the history could turn some readers off like it almost did to me, but curiosity got the better of me and I forced myself to skim through those dreadful parts.

The constant, as with all historical stories, are the pearls, jewels, and other fine adornments. No royalty, be it Roman or Brits, could do without such accessorizing.

Overall, the novel was a worthy read. A blend of romance, decade-long catfight balanced out with intellectual exchanges, some thrill and mystery, it promises a good prequel and sequel. The former ("Daughters of Rome") had been published, and the latter ("Empress of the Seven Hills") is set to be released this coming April.
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Reading Progress

03/13/2012 page 72
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03/15/2012 page 72
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