The Lion and the Rose by Kate Quinn

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The sequel to The Serpent and the Pearl continues the trials and tribulations of the three main characters, Giulia Farnese, Carmelina and Leonello, all of whom play prominent roles in the lives of the Borgia clan.  Kate Quinn has delivered a masterful look at the historical timeline of Pope Alexander, the sixth of that name, and has filled in the gaps with stunning results. Edge of the seat drama coupled with exquisite glimpses of the pomp of the Vatican Court and the powerlessness of those who serve.  Hardhearted cruelty, tenacious loyalty and love being found in all the wrong places are some of the highlights that await you, dear reader.

In all of the Kate Quinn books that I have read prior to this I have felt a twinge of envy for her very talented Muse and The Lion and the Rose was no different.  Kudos for another well written series.  4.8 stars

 

 

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Lady of the Eternal City by Kate Quinn

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There are times when this humble scribe finds it difficult to articulate or to even come close to the right words to use.  This is one of those times.  Kate Quinn has delivered a masterpiece of a series that culminates in Lady of the Eternal City.  There aren’t many books that reduce me to tears or has me screaming in disbelief but  Kate has done those things to me repeatedly throughout.  On top of the emotions, she also has me believing that this is the way things might have actually happened.  That’s what comes out of a fiction so well written; so well researched.  I cannot recommend the Empress of Rome series highly enough but you must begin with book one; otherwise you will miss out on the muse inspired character developments, the emotion touching prose, the elegance of language that permeates all four books.  I, for one, will have this series on my To Read Again List.  5 Stars

The Serpent and the Pearl by Kate Quinn

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What I know of this time and place has been gleaned mainly from the two made for television series’ on The Borgias (while I enjoyed both series, I liked the Jeremy Irons version more).  So, I was more than curious as to how Kate Quinn would approach the subject matter while trying not to impose any of my preconceived notions on the main characters.  Well, as it turns out, I was unduly concerned as the author tells this story from the viewpoints of personages on the periphery of the Borgia clan.  Well maybe not periphery for one of the characters, after all, Giulia Farnese occupied Pope Alexander’s (the sixth of that name) bed as his mistress.  Once again the author had me immersed in the sights and smells of the era, from the kitchens of Carmelina to the flashing knives of the dwarf bodyguard Leonello.  A superbly crafted cast of characters, an attention grabbing storyline with plots and subplots enough to keep the reader guessing.  The main story follows the fortune of La Bella, Giulia, from the beginning of Rodrigo Borgia’s ascent to Pope to her dealings with the invading French.  The placing of Carmelina and Leonello into the narrative provides a refreshing look at this fascinating time of political and religious upheaval.  Another pleasant and page turning work from a very talented scribe.  5 stars

A Year of Ravens

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A collaborative effort of seven authors, A Year of Ravens tells the tale of the Iceni Queen, Boudica and her rebellion against Rome.  While the cause and effects of the war are admirably presented, it is the characters that drive this emotion packed, soul searching, heartstring tugging story(or rather stories).  From the beginning the readers are treated to a seamless transition from author to author and the way each of them puts their own marks on the growth of each character.  Time and time again I was drawn into a character’s mindset and felt the pain, the remorse, the confusion, and even the occasional joy being experienced.  One, of the many examples I could choose, of a character’s journey through the book is the fictional wife of the Roman Procurator.  Valeria as introduced in the first chapter is a cold as ice Roman matron whose only ambition is to promote her rather timid husband’s career.  What she experiences in subsequent events is so beautifully written as to elicit some tearing up even to this old curmudgeon.  Also on display are the realities of war and the cruelties inflicted by men(and women) madly entrenched in the rightness of their cause.  Whether it’s shield wall action or the rampant, wanton destruction of a town or village, the battle scenes are bloodlust filled events punctuated with the sounds of sword on sword and the screams of the dying.

By way of summation, let me say, from the very beginning with the Intro by Ben Kane to the very, very end with an afterword from each author, this book is a testament to the creative genius of seven wordsmiths.  5 stars

 

Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn

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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

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Daughters of Rome by Kate Quinn

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Okay, I am now convinced beyond all doubt.  I have read Mistress of Rome, The Three Fates and Kate Quinn’s contribution to Day of Fire and through reading these books I noticed that a certain amount of talent lie within her pen and keyboard.  What put me over the edge in my nascent admiration, is chapter 17 in Daughters of Rome, the chariot race chapter.  What Judah Ben-Hur and Messala did for chariot racing on the big screen, Kate does in chapter 17.for the written word.  Now that’s not meant to take away from the rest of the book; oh no, not by any means.  The author has portrayed four Cornelian noble women and their seeming ever changing fortunes during the infamous Year of the Four Emperors.  With each new emperor a new level of growth for our four heroines from the loosening of Cornelia’s stubborn resolve to the change from the ‘oh woe is me’ Marcella to the ‘instrument of change’ Marcella.  Lollias’ coming to grips with love and the sheer number of emotions experienced by Diana in chapter 17, well that alone is worth the price of admission, dear reader. Yes, I am convinced, Kate Quinn can write pretty good.  5 stars

Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn

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‘A nicely done short that serves as an interim between Empress of the Seven Hills and Lady of the Eternal City. Certainly got me interested in reading the rest of the series.”   That is what I wrote after reading The Three Fates, a fill-in short between books 3 and 4.  With that bit of exposure to the author I plunged into book 1, Mistress of Rome having had my interest duly piqued.  I must say that even with that bit of exposure I was still blown away with this tale of love, ambition and just plain survival.  The story takes place during the reign of Domitian, or Lord and God, as he preferred to be called and is an interwoven tale that brings together a most disparate group of people.  Thea, a slave who becomes Domitian’s mistress….Lepida, a rich, spoiled Roman woman consumed with ambition…Arius, a gladiator known as The Barbarian to name a few.  Rome was a dangerous place and even more so when coupled with exposure to the Imperial court and the author does a marvelous job in making the reader feel the palpable anxiety whenever one is in the presence of the Emperor.  Domitian is portrayed as a capable ruler but with a mercurial streak of sadistic behavior.  While he does inflict a lot of pain, it is the character of Lepida that I found the most delight in loathing.  Simply put, she is a devil-clawed seeker of pure naked ambition,  Those are but two of the well done characters, characters that draw you into a comfortable embracing of what makes them tick.  As to the tale itself, the plots are many, the twists and turns are eye-opening.  If there is anything that I would complain about it would be these two things: (1. now I have another author to follow through this series and then her books on the Borgias…so many good things to read takes away from my time to write  and (2. another author whose writing is so good that I despair in my own attempts.  🙂      5 stars  Hooverbookreviews says, you gotta read this.

Biography

Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance detailing the early years of the infamous Borgia clan. All have been translated into multiple languages.

Kate has succumbed to the blogging bug, and keeps a blog filled with trivia, pet peeves, and interesting facts about historical fiction. She and her husband now live in Maryland with a small black dog named Caesar, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.