Why am I writing about a book that was published 6 years ago? Mistress of Rome has far enough reviews out there, so one could easily get an idea what it is about. But it’s one of my favourite novels ever and among the most gripping ones I have in my home library. It’s just too good…
So this won’t be yet another book review, and I’m not beginning this post with the intention of summing up the plot. You could find it anywhere. Goodreads is the ideal place to start from because there are plenty of readers’ comments as well. In addition, you may wish to visit Kate Quinn’s official website where not only would you find the book’s summary but also the prologue.
And this will be enough for you to get curious. If you are as interested in ancient Rome as I am, the prologue will undoubtedly make you buy the book. In my case, I bought it without having read a single sentence beforehand. Actually, it was a random purchase in the bookshop and I didn’t have great expectations. It was said to be Quinn’s debut and, for some reason, I had always been quite sceptical about debuts.
Well, at that time I didn’t know I would love it. And I learnt to never look incredulously at debut pieces of literature again.
Sometimes, you feel a good read right from the first lines. Mistress of Rome blows your mind with the very first sentence. Then, you just can’t stop reading.
In case you haven’t read the book, I’ll describe it in a nutshell. Rome under the reign of Domitian, an Empire of splendour and beauty, debauchery and blood; a slave girl and her capricious mistress, and a gladiator. Can you smell the female rivalry already?
This is the most fascinating story of love I have read. Why? Because it’s powerful, it’s real and touching, but not sloppy. It’s about love deep and beautiful, but deprived of tears, in the tough world of secrets and treachery. It’s not as romantic and sentimental as expected (alright, I’ll say it, I love The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks, and the movie even more, but it’s an exception 🙂 ); it’s marked with spite, dangers and a lot of blood. If you are not a fan of maudlin chick lit pieces (that makes us fellows), you will probably like the story of Thea and Arius the Barbarian.
He, the attractive gladiator – invincible and savage, an embodiment of masculinity and might. If you are a woman and this is your type of man, you too will fall in love with Arius. He is unscrupulous in the arena and Rome worships him. There is only one woman to see his other self.
She, the slave – delicate but not as obedient as her status suggests. Strong-minded, an impressive little figure in the big world of bloody fights, cruelty and female venom. The woman who will make you ask who the real Mistress of Rome should be.
I know, it happens too often – the servant excels their master. OK, she is smarter and more beautiful than her mistress. But this time, it’s more than that. I was astonished by Thea’s composure, the mask she puts on, her dignity so untypical of a slave. She endures everything with such pride. Her portrait is simply brilliant.
Yes, there is a happy end. But I was so totally enchanted by both Arius and his beloved Thea that not seeing them eventually together would have devastated my humble soul of a reader. Not that I dislike twists, but that would have been too disappointing to bear. 🙂 Kate Quinn just knows how to keep her readers.
Beautifully written, dark, and beyond any doubt, a page-turner. A historical fiction book with a well-measured dose of love, and personages you will remember for long.
Mistress of Rome is my very type of novel. Is it yours, too?