Friday, July 20, 2012

Kate Quinn

I have found another historical fiction author to follow, along with Diana Gabaldon and Jean Auel. Plucked off a library shelf on a whim, Mistress of Rome, the debut novel by Kate Quinn was a great read.

Ancient Rome has always interested me, having been ‘tricked’ into studying Latin for 3 extra years at high school after 1 year of fantastic facts and interesting details about Emperors, gladiators, Pompeii, Mt Vesuvius etc. The reality of studying the language was painful (although slightly eased the way into NT Greek), but my interest in the time remains.

Set in the grim and bloody time of Emperor Domitian, a slave girl Thea knows only a life of servitude and pain until she meets Arius, a gladiator who becomes the conqueror of the Colosseum. Chance brings them together, scheming enemies tear them apart and yet their lives remain entwined when Thea becomes a favourite of the Emperor. As Domitian’s grip on the world becomes ever tighter, those around him start to wonder – can anyone dare to stop the Emperor, known to all as lord and god?

A number of the figures are people of history and it was great to read how she wove history and fiction together. At the end of the book she explains which is the fact and which is the fiction.

A quick search revealed she has since published 2 more novels. I quickly got my hand on the second: Daughters of Rome. Written as a prequel to Mistress of Rome, and set 12 years earlier in 69AD, known as the Year of the Four Emperors. As it suggests, Rome spend a year teetering between men who claimed the title of Emperor. Throughout each change the four women of the Cornelii family find themselves drawn into the instability of the city. One wants to be the Empress, another wants to record history, one finds herself married and divorced regularly according to whatever match brings most advantage to her family and the youngest would prefer to spend time with the racing horses. I also enjoyed finding a few characters from the first book and piecing some background details together.

Quinn has a real talent for taking an exciting period of time and then adding some extra characters to give it a personal touch.

I have eagerly reserved the third at the library – Empress of the Seven Hills.

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