Thursday, April 29, 2010

Book Review: MISTRESS OF ROME, by Kate Quinn

This book can empirically claim its place alongside the magna –grand scale productions  such as Marc Antony and Cleopatra, Caesar, Samson and see where I’m going with this- The Big Screen. I was completely enraptured. Paramount are you reading this?   
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where the story manages to clench my insides and get to that part of my gut where just a tad more would be enough to... and then stops- to just about where I’ve had as much as I can take.  Mistress of Rome takes you there.  Kate Quinn knows exactly how much we can handle-right upto that very point where you must exhale, to then weave the story into bliss.
In this grand novel, the crude is mirrored and diminished by the grand and triumphant splendour of love and tenderness.  That being said, Mistress of Rome is also about power, vice, history, raw times and treachery.  There’s struggle with moral issues, psychological afflictions and disturbances, scheming ascensions, spectacular gladiator triumphs- and yes, along with it all, as expected in decadent and barbaric Rome, alot of gore, as well. Too much to handle?  No,  everything is given in just the right dose and is not focal to the magnitude of the story itself. Quinn is spectacular at her craft.
The story is told through the perspective of important characters - principally, Thea, the unattainably invincible Jewish slave (gentleness and sorrow behind a stony facade- I loved her!); the harsh and brutally scheming Lepida (I’m still disgusted...), and Julia, the vestal virgin (my soul cried out for her...).  I know that the shifting character perspective is not a favourite with many- but for me, I believe that this actually enhanced the plot, helping to render an excellent story. I loved getting into their heads.  Quinn did an all-around amazing job with this superb novel.
And so what about gladiators?  In this book you’ll meet Arius-an indestructible powerhouse who bows down to no one-not even the Emperor.  The 'Barbarian', they called him- He lives up magnificently to the legend rather than the name.  As for the Emperor, who delighted in taunting in his sick pathetic and torturing ways, well, let’s just say that all those worthy of time spent serving him for pleasure and for vice, would ultimately reach their time for vengeance...
Ahhh, there is so much to this novel that I just cannot do it justice with one simple review.  If you love all that is of the ancient world- you need to read this. Mistress of Rome gets as crudely descriptive (though in good taste- yes in this novel it’s possible!) as you’d imagine; while being as tender as you’d dream it could be- all that and more.
One word:  Colossal 
Note: I don’t star-rate my novels (except on sites where I don’t have a choice; Amazon and the like and even then I rarely rate higher than 4 - maybe for a Plaidy, or Gulland's...)  Well, this novel is the exception as well.


B.Kienapple said...

I would call this a rave review! Glad you loved it.

BurtonReview said...

I have heard great things for this.. Colossal would be pretty darn good. So glad you liked it!

Anonymous said...

Wow, that was quite an endorsement. I'll have to add this to my TBR pile right away. Ancient Rome is pretty fascinating anyway...sounds like Quinn makes it even more so.

JaneGS said...

Oh, I can't wait to read this--you have really made it sound appealing. Well-written and compelling. Great review.

Kate Quinn said...

Ms Lucy, you made my day with this review. I am so glad you enjoyed my book. Readers like you are the ones I write for!

Lucy said...

I'm still in a daze, Bronwyn- Fabulous! Thanks:)

Marie- best buddy- you know me, if I go this far in my review, it has to be that good. thanks:)

Christine! As an excellent author yourself, you would more than appreciate this book- it's incredible:) thanks!

Thank you Jane! An absolute must, indeed! Thanks:)

Kate, what more can I say...I can't thank you enough for having created this novel. again...Colossal!

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

I have an affinity to anything related to Rome because my mother is Roman. Your review speaks volumes. My hubby loves Roman history and devours books on the subject. I have been to Rome several times and will always be in awe when I walk through its majestic ruins. I would love to read this one, although I am not a fan of gore and I will trust your judgement that it is written in good taste. Thanks for sharing!

Unknown said...

I can't wait to read this book. Your review is so elevating that I know it will be great! Thanks Lucy.

Laura said...

I have tried to contact you via your blog email under the contact area but it won't work for me. Can you please email me?

Passages to the Past said...

I LOVED Mistress of Rome too!!!! Historical Fiction at it's best and I am still amazed that this was her first book - she can only get better ;-)

Another great review Lucy...I'm happy you liked it as much as I did!

Allie ~ Hist-Fic Chick said...

Love your review, Lucy! I, too, loved the changing perspectives! I liked how this way of writing allowed me to see inside the evil Lepida's head and read her (horribly justified) motivations. I think if it was ONLY from Thea's POV, the reader would not have been able to have seen things from both sides. Loved this book, and colossal is a great way to describe it. My heart was beating so quickly from beginning to end!