One of the better historical fictions about Rome

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Frank_Matinez's review of Kate Quinn, Mistress of Rome

“One of the better historical fictions about Rome”


written by Frank_Matinez on 07/02/2013

I had read "Daughters of Rome" before reading this book and enjoyed it. This one was just as good. Quinn has a beautiful way of writing history.

Thea is a slave girl and has been one for quite some time. Captured from a defeated city, she has worked for many people until her pre-teens when she is bought to be a maid for a spoiled girl named Lepida. Lepida resents Thea's intelligence and when she finds Thea with a gladiator that she would like to have as well, Thea is sold to a brothel. While Thea struggles out of the brothel and into a role as a famous musician, her Gladiator must fight countless battles, surviving against all odds, and her foe Lepida, is slowly coming up the ranks in Roman society.

Thea is an interesting character. She has many personality quirks and really isn't afraid of too much, which is sometimes a flaw for her. She's not afraid to say what she thinks as well, and that also gets her into trouble. But she's a likable character, and you can feel yourself sympathizing with her over her plight. Her Gladiator I didn't care for as much. He's a little rough and while I can understand her wanting freedom with anything, he just isn't as relatable of a character to me. Lepida is downright annoying and you can't help but wish she'll meet a horrible demise even when she is a pre-teen. There are plenty of other characters of course, from the kindly father of Lepida to the stern and slightly deranged Emperor. And they all have their place. I can't say that this book had any unnecessary characters.

The plot was well done. I can't comment on how accurate this is for Roman history, certainly quite a few of the characters are made up, but Quinn is able to present it in a way that if this history is true, it is memorable. It's written with a modern tone too, so if you're expecting authentic voice in this book, it's not here. Some of the writing is rather brutal. There's violence, abuse, self-mutilation, and many other mature topics. It's all done as tastefully as it can be, but still might not be appropriate for readers who don't handle reading those types of things well. But the story is magnetic and I stayed up far too late on a work night to read it through. I just had a hard time putting it down.

I'd give this book 4.5 stars. Very imaginative, compelling characters, and a bleary eyed morning from staying up all night reading it; it has all the right components.

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