There are so many excellent writers around today that I’m never surprised when I discover another one. I was unfamiliar with Kate’s work until I read the fabulous A Day of Fire – a Novel of Pompeii. I loved her part of the story, The Senator, and it encouraged me to take up the offer of an ARC of her new book, Lady of the Eternal City.
As ill luck would have it, I couldn’t start reading it for a while and when I did I was frustrated by having very short snatches of reading time but it was certainly worth setting aside some time for!
Kate weaves the story of Emperor Hadrian around the characters of his Empress, Vibia Sabina and the fictional Vix, a relentlessly driven Praetorian commander. I knew little about Hadrian and his period in office – apart from the wall obviously – so it was all new to me. The whole story is very much character-driven – which I liked. Even many of the minor characters get under your skin and give the story a richness and depth. We are spared endlessly detailed descriptions of places and ideas which, for me, only ever serve to slow up the story.
The characters are complex and we are shown many different facets of that complexity as the author moves from one POV to another. You really feel as if you are inside the main characters. The character development is also extraordinary and this is particularly true of the Emperor Hadrian who follows a stumbling error strewn path along life’s journey. We are given a genuine insight into both the reasons for his success and the flaws in his character.
I loved all of the central characters especially young Annia Galeria Faustina. I like my heroines feisty. Though I was told off at HNS London for using that word, I think people know what I mean by it. It is all too easy for female protagonists in any period to be written as a clone of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and for strong women to be seen as ‘men with boobs’. By contrast the character of Annia is really well drawn. She is rugged and blunt but somehow always retains her femininity. Kate manages her development from childhood into adult very skilfully. In fact when the women who inhabit Kate’s book show strength, it is always a strength rooted in the context of the time period.
The story covers the best part of twenty years but, despite that, there is still a relentless pace to it. There is also great balance in the handling of the different, but closely entwined, strands of the story. Kate manages deft, sensitive storytelling but spares the reader little of the brutality and corruption of the age. So, it’s my kind of book!
Lady of the Eternal City is available on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lady-Eternal-City-Empress-Rome-ebook/dp/B00L9B7MP0/
… and I am sure lots of other places too… rush out and swallow it whole!