Valerie's Reviews > Mistress of Rome

Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn
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's review
Apr 04, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2012
Read from January 03 to 06, 2012

I first discovered Kate Quinn by winning an ARC of Daughters of Rome via the First Reads program. Historical fiction isn't my usual genre, but Daughters was simply an astounding book - I stayed up all night reading it in one go. A few months ago, I decided to pick up Mistress of Rome, her first novel, to see if it compared.

How does it stack up? Maybe it's because it was her first book, but it didn't hook me nearly as much as Daughters did. The narrative style switches between two first-person POVs, those of Jewish slave girl Thea and the wealthy, snobby Lepida, with other third-person POVs sprinkled in. I didn't think it flowed very well; sometimes I would be fine reading one of Thea/Lepida's POVs, and then would be jolted out of the story when it switched back to third-person.

As for the pacing, I thought it was slower - neither of the two main female characters really become a "Mistress" until 100 pages into the book. Instead, the beginning focuses on Thea's budding romance with Arius, a gladiator, and the fun politics and scheming don't really come into play until later.

The book's greatest strength lies in its characters. At first, I dismissed Lepida as a caricature - but oh, she's evil. (view spoiler) Emperor Domitian's progression from a stoic, yet quirky ruler to a terrifying sociopath was really something to behold. By the last 150 pages, the book really drew me in. I heard there's a sequel coming out in April starring Sabina and Vix as the main characters, and I'm rather looking forward to that.

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01/03/2012 page 182
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