I enjoy historical fiction and I found this book when the author was doing a giveaway on a forum. I have previously read Imperium by Robert Harris, and other similar books, which I found really interesting so reading about ancient Rome from the viewpoint of a woman was a tempting proposition.
Elissa is a vestal virgin, a priestess sworn to chastity, and one of the most powerful women in Rome. The vestals are envied by other women as they are allowed to own property and have a much greater degree of independence than other Roman women, but it is something of a gilded cage. After Nero kills her brother and pursues Elissa she vows revenge and is determined to try and stop Nero bringing about the fall of Rome. She becomes disenchanted with the Roman Gods and under the guidance of a family friend and potential lover she is introduced to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Her actions could lead to her death but she is driven to protect her family and Rome.
This is a story with a lot of strong characters who play important roles in progressing the plot. In some books this can be hard to follow but not this one. The particular emphasis on the views and positions within society of the women in the story, and the fact most of the book comes from the viewpoints of female characters, is quite refreshing and showed me a different side to the Roman era than I had gleaned from other books. I'm no historian so I couldn't swear to the accuracy of every detail but it felt authentic and very interesting.
This book is well written and proof-read, in fact I don't think I spotted a single typo which is very unusual for me. The story wasn't overly complicated but with such treachery and ambition on display it didn't need to be, reading about Nero's debauchery and Elissa's sister's cruelty driven by naivety I was hooked. I think the reason I didn't come away from it thinking it was a brilliant book was possibly that there is a lot of Roman terminology that I haven't come across before and wasn't in the OED on my kindle. Although I understood the gist it would have been helpful to have had a little more description - for example of the various articles of clothing - so I could better imagine what was being mentioned. One small warning (and it is mentioned on Amazon) -there are some scenes of a sexual nature which although not lengthy or using coarse language, more suggestive than anything, may not be to everyone's taste.
I really liked this book, it definitely broke my recent run of 2* books, and I was happy to see a mention at the end of the author's next book based in ancient Greece.
Format: Kindle, received from author giveaway
My rating: 4*