First off let me start by begging Kate Quinn for the use of her magical Muse. The combination of the author’s fertile imagination and the delicate yet lush landscapes inspired by that Muse has produced a multi-layered tale of intrigue and adventure. The backdrop to the intrigue is the reign of Trajan and who will succeed him. The obvious, and only choice, in the mind of the Empress Plotina, is their ward Hadrian but Trajan is not of the same mind as his wife’s. The relationship between Trajan and Hadrian as portrayed in this tale reminds me of the frosty relationship between Augustus and Tiberius in the BBC drama I, Claudius. Hadrian to Trajan is just as Tiberius was to Augustus, very useful but not in the succession plan. The adventure comes in the form of Trajan’s war in Dacia and reintroduces us to Vix, the child gladiator now returned to Rome in pursuit of his dream of glory in the legions. Enter Sabina, my favorite character in the book I think, enigmatic, adventurous, and niece to Trajan and probably closer to him than anyone else in the imperial household. A tempestuous affair between Vix and Sabina is interlaced through the dramatic events of the narrative. And Titus, poor background seeking Titus, his unlooked for rise in Rome is one example of the author’s skill at character development. Another gem in the category of a well drawn character is the Empress Plotina. Forgive me another I, Claudius analogy but Plotina is much like Livia, both masterful manipulators of events, both with boundless ambition, a most delightful lady.
The end of this tale, well it’s not really an end, is it? Ms. Quinn leads us right into the next episode, which I for one will be getting to asap. 5 stars
On Twitter @hooverbkreview