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VINE VOICEon 18 November 2010
Historical fiction is a crowded genre, particularly if Ancient Rome is it's location. It's all been done before, and in some instances, very well, so for an author there will be nothing new to present. Which makes it doubly important that you have a good story to tell, and you tell it well. Kate Quinn has taken that on board and she tells a tale intertwining an Imperial family and it's sycophants, and 2 slaves, which neatly combines the major aspects of Roman society.

The story unfolds though the eyes of the major characters, which allows the opportunity for some real depth, and it is to Quinn's credit that she handles fight scenes and Imperial banquets with equal aplomb, while also leaving much to the imagination of the reader. The Romans present plenty of opportunity for graphic detail with their brutal way of life, love and death, and rather than fall into the trap of detailing everything, Quinn prefers to hint and infer, other than some for the fight scenes.

As to the story itself, the detail of Roman life never overwhelms the pace, which is satisfyingly brisk and even some of the more unlikely elements seem believable, such is the skill of the author. There's everything here, from romance to depravity, from politic intrigue to the Arena and that makes this a book with very wide appeal. I liked it.
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VINE VOICEon 22 June 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Normally my reviews are quite long but there's just not much I can say to critique this book. It brings Ancient Rome to life in vivid detail, not shying away from the gore but not using it gratuitously either. The characters are engaging and well rounded, their motives complex and intriguing, and Quinn's writing style is fluid and confident. There are some historical inaccuracies but they're in service to the story and thus very forgivable; they're not lazy or careless.

Read it, is all I can say!!
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on 12 September 2010
Orphaned by Rome's savage legions, Thea, a slave girl from Judaea, has learned what it takes to survive. She knows only violence until a chance meeting with gladiator Arius offers a shred of tenderness. But their bond is severed when Thea is sold again, condemned to rot in squalor.

Years later, a singer known as Athena betrays no hint of her troubled past. Catching the eye of the Emperor himself, she is swept into a world of decadence and depravity. But althought Domitian fears betrayal from every side, he is unaware that the greatest threat lies next to him - a slave girl who has come to be called the Mistress of Rome...

It's hard to know how to review Mistress of Rome. On the one hand, I swept through it in one day, finding the prose to be simple yet effective and the historical details vivid. On the other hand, I felt that it came across much as a soap opera programme or chick lit novel would - light, easy-to-read, with larger than life characters and ultimately forgettable. Although I enjoyed the novel, I don't honestly see it staying with me for very long.

One factor that struck me while reading Mistress of Rome is how fantastical it seemed - when I thought on this, I believe it might be because of how long ago the time period being represented was. We know sweeping details of the Roman Empire - who ruled when, military campaigns, political machinations - but the real nitty gritty details and the secondary historical figures (those that didn't impact on history) have been lost, and hence the novelist needs to flesh out the missing elements.

The fantastical side to Mistress of Rome was not helped by Quinn including a character who could supposedly see the future.

However, my knowledge of ancient Rome and the period of Domitian is confined to historical fiction rather than solid research of my own, so I am definitely not an authority on whether Quinn's novel is historically accurate or not.

I did love the character of Thea/Athena - she was strong, righteous and very readable. Equally I detested the character of Lepida (Thea's mistress when we are first introduced to the slave, and her ongoing nemesis) - Quinn's writing here was extremely effective, since we are supposed to despise the decadent and spiteful woman. In fact, all of the characters leapt off of the page, and were a massive strength in Quinn's debut novel. She wrote them with great assurance, and, if some of them were a little too black and white at times, they were never less than entertaining.

I marvelled at the attitudes and actions of Emperor Domitian - he was marvellously complex: dignified and despicable by turn. If Quinn's tale truly revealed any part of the truth of his life, then he was a man to be feared by those close to him.

The representation of the gladiatorial games was rich with detail and very enjoyable to read. These were my favourite parts of the novel - well, that and the fabulous descriptions of Lepida's wardrobe!

Mistress of Rome is gossipy, with scandal, glamour and plenty of action. At its heart is a love story with depth and passion. As you can see, it is a mixed up novel that I genuinely enjoyed it and would recommend the novel to others - but only as a fun read, as opposed to something that will stay with you past the last page.
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This is great read. Set in first century Rome, it is a gripping saga with a range of characters (some real historical figures, some fictional) both good and evil whose fortunes collide as the years pass. At its heart, this novel is about a love story between Thea, a Jewish slave, and Arius a star gladiator. What Kate Quinn does so cleverly is to combine their story with the political intrigues of the time to make for a gripping story which would I think, convert well to the big screen. The pace of the novel is excellent. Although it is quite hefty at approximately 500 pages at no time did it drag. Kate Quinn's evocation of ancient Rome is also very convincing with vivid descriptions of gladiators fighting in the colosseum, of great banquets, colourful markets and more.
The way the novel is written is cleverly done, with the author slipping often seamlessly between scenes and between the different characters narrating events. The effect is very much like the scene in a film fading into the next, and it works exteremely well. This is an impressive first novel, a real page-turning epic which I enjoyed more than I thought I would, and I am keen to start the second in this series Daughters of Rome shortly.
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on 11 November 2013
This book was absorbing. I did feel the first couple of chapters I might not continue reading mainly because of the Roman names which if I left for more than a day I had to go to the back of the book to see who the characters were. Having persevered however the book became one I couldn't put down, so much so that I am now reading the third book of Kate Quinn. If you enjoy history these are the books for you.
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VINE VOICEon 24 June 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Mistress of Rome is a page-turning yomp through Ancient Rome at the time of Emperor Domitian, which focuses on the life of a young Jewish slave girl, Thea. When we first meet her, she is the personal slave of Lepida Pollia, a pampered daddy's girl who will later form the second narrative voice of the book. A chance encounter with the British gladiator Arius introduces Thea to her first true love and her first appreciation of the damage a jealous Lepida can inflict, when she is sold by her vindictive mistress and bundled off before she can even so much as wave goodbye to her lover. Years later, her path crosses Lepida's again when Thea has become the Mistress of Emperor Domitian and Lepida has another bad case of the green eyed monstor... but what about Arius?

Characterisation in this novel is absolutely brilliant - I felt I was under the skin of the characters and living the drama with them. The only character I felt could have been a bit more drawn was Thea, but this could have been because I hated Lepida Pollia so much that her chapters provoked more of a reaction in me. My only gripe with the style is the use of narrative voice - I found it really strange at first that you would read a few pages told from Thea, then it would switch to third person narrative for a few pages, and then go to Lepida or back to Thea. However I did soon forget that this was annoying me because I got so carried along by the story, and in the end I felt this narrative technique did the novel great justice.

The reviewer who previously described this novel as historical chick lit has it pretty much spot on. This is like Jilly Cooper in a toga, but with some history thrown in so you don't feel so guilty enjoying it. Lepida is the villain of the piece, a nasty little hussy who cheats on her husband with his son and sleeps with half of Rome, threesomes and orgies included. Arius is the strapping hero with a demon on his shoulder who falls in love and realises life isn't so bad after all. And Thea is a girl with a troubled past and a self-harm problem who endures a lifetime of hardship and comes out the other side to show us there is light at the end of the tunnel. I sound cynical, but I'm not. This book had me gripped to the end, and I heaved a huge sigh of relief when I got there and the author hinted that there would be a sequel. It has everything you want from a Summer read - romance, drama, betrayal, sex, treachary, murder - I absolutely loved it and will be reading it again.
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on 7 February 2014
Kate Quinn is amazing as a historical novelist on this period. I'm a historain by degree ( a long time ago) but this is so readable and her characters draw you in. You can't put it down though so be warned!
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on 20 July 2012
I got this book, having an inteerest in Ancient Rome. I've previously read Brenda Jagger's "Antonia" and "Aphrodite's Daughter" - books also touching on the year of the Four Emperors and events after but published some many years before "Mistress of Rome" and I believe, no longer in print, although it is possible to get hold of copies second hand. Certain passages within Kate Quinn's first book are almost word-for-word extracts from these much earlier books by Brenda Jagger. I wouldn't want to assert plagiarism, as the standard and quality of writing between the two authors was not really comparable, Brenda Jagger having a unique and mature writing style that Kate Quinn did not - on the release of this book - appear to possess. That made me uncomfortable reading the first book, which I found a little trite in spite of its subject matter. However, I would say I persevered with Kate Quinn's successive offerings "Daughters of Rome" and "Empress of Rome" (really to see whether the earlier attempts at emulation persisted!) and it's fair to say Ms Quinn's writing style develops markedly in these two later books. Having just finished "Empress of Rome" I can now honestly say her style of writing has matured, strengthened and become her own. I enjoyed what I read and felt much more at ease that the work I was reading had become entirely the product of her own ideas and not those of another author. The earlier similarities could have been co-incidence, but am not so sure..... whatever the truth as to that, Ms Quinn has evolved her own very creditable writing style.
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on 1 May 2015
‘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.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 September 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I really wanted to like this book. I have a passion for novels set in the ancient world. Alas, despite rave reviews from some well-known writers, MISTRESS OF ROME just didn't 'do it' for me.

After 200 pages, I really felt I'd had more than enough, and I only slogged through the other 300-odd because I didn't want to write a review of a book I hadn't read fully. But I honestly didn't enjoy it.

My first criticism will sound incredibly petty and nit-picking, but I'll mention it anyway, on the grounds that if it annoyed me, it might annoy you too.

The book is written as a series of 1st-person narratives. Nothing wrong with that. But when it's a female character speaking, the narrative is headed by her name in capitals. I found this distracting, and it continually knocked me out of the story. But what's even more bizarre is that when the 'speaker' is male, there are no such headings. This was seldom a problem - the context usually made it clear who was speaking within a sentence or two. But since this would also have been the case for the female protagonists, why were THEIR names used as headers every 2 or 3 pages? It became an annoying distraction from the story.

Another criticism: for me, part of the joy of a novel set in the ancient world is that in addition to reading a good story, I feel I've visited an alien culture. For example, I recently finished Stephen Saylor's ROMA SUB ROSA series, and after each one I felt doubly satisfied: Not only had I read a cracking yarn, but I also felt like I'd taken a short holiday in ancient Rome; I'd seen the sights; tasted the food; heard the gossip; soaked in the culture.
I just never felt this at all in MISTRESS OF ROME.

The characters didn't ring true for me either.

I don't want to give away any details of the story, but I felt the plot sometimes lost focus. I haven't checked if this is Kate Quinn's first book, but suspect it is - it felt a little like someone feeling their way at a first novel.

I'm sorry if this sounds like a hatchet job. At the end of the day, it may just be down to a matter of my personal taste (especially given the number of good reviews for this book). All I can say is this: Having read MY review, if you decide I'm too nit-picking, ignore me! But if you feel that any of my criticisms address the kind of thing YOU don't like either, then this might be a book to avoid.
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