Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mistress of Rome

I had a busy day today.  Went to the dentist first thing in the morning and then I retired from the US Air Force after 20 years.  It was a nice luncheon and one of my parting gifts was a bound copy of a novel I co-wrote about 10 years ago.  Honestly it wasn't ready for publication; I actually abandoned it about three years ago as slop but was pretty cool to see a book I wrote even if there is only one copy in the whole wide world.

While waiting for the dentist, I completed Mistress of Rome by newcomer, Kate Quinn.  This one is scheduled to be on store shelves in April and I'm thinking with the right marketing and sales support, it might do pretty well.  As a novel-reading experience it was a pretty fun ride.  It's an historical novel, taking place during the reign of Emporer Domitian, the last of the Flavian dynasty in Rome.  There are several major characters who all act as POV characters at different times but the main one is Thea, a Jewish slave girl who rises to the very heights of Roman society as the Emporer's mistress.  Other major characters include a gladiator barbarian, and a spiteful heiress named Lepida Pollia.  There is a good mix of fictional characters intermingled with historical persons but you'll have to look in the appendix to know which is which unless you're a Roman scholar.

Basically, the novel is a well-plotted soap opera of intrigue.  There is plenty of blood spilled (not all in the gladiator arena), lust, conniving, backstabbing betrayals, assassination attempts, jealousy and old fashioned romance.  The story itself really grabbed me and kept me turning the pages, wanting to find out what happened next and I found the characters to be multi-dimensional for the most part.  I did have a bit of a problem with the constant switching back and forth among the POV characters as it wasn't always perfectly clear when the change happened.  It can really throw the reader off kilter when they go from one first person POV paragraph to another, also in first person, but from a different character's persepective.  Still, I really enjoyed this one and even though this novel is a complete stand-alone book, the "Historical Note" at the end hinted at a sequel to come.  I'll be in line to read that if and when it happens.

I also managed to read the second short story in The Best Time Travel Stories of the 20th Century, called "Time Locker" by Henry Kuttner.  This one was from back in the so-called golden age of Science Fiction, copyright 1943.  This is an era that is hard for me to appreciate because it's just so far back that the science is, from today's perspective, of the middle school variety.  I can get past that though if the story is good but in reading this one, I just didn't get into it much.  The idea is a "what-if" scenario.  What if you could contain a time warp field inside an object, in this case an airport locker.  Most of the story is a crime caper told in the fashion of the 1940's.  I could just see somebody like Humphrey Bogart playing the lead role.  The ending was a cute twist based on flawed science as we know it today and it coaxed a chuckle out of me but overall I was disappointed in this entry.

Next up: back to the horror genre with Covenent by John Everson.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds quite similar in concept to Priestess of Avalon, which out of all the Avalon series I've enjoyed the most by far. Might try this one when I get some more time, thanks.


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