Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Kate Quinn: Empress of the Seven Hills

Marrying for the desire to explore and research rather than for love, Sabina takes a path less traveled and is somehow revered for it. The men in her life are strong willed and intelligent senators, centurions, and rulers, but they listen to her all the same. The women in Empress are feminine but strong and the male leads are unique and as hungry for the domination of place and self as any ever written. Despite being female writer, she somehow captures the unbending determination and open eyed, unashamed reach of a genuine men, powerful men.

A little light on mythology (the second book has a great description of the old Greek Practices of Enlightenment), but big on history, Quinn writes an engaging novel with enough intrigue, romance and driving plot to keep you turning pages late into the night.

While she takes artistic liberties (for instance, Vercingetorix the Red is a created character, as opposed to Vibia Sabina, the patrian girl that steals his uncultured heart), Quinn stays true to Roman history and the book serves as a decent guide to the rise and fall of a roman emperor.

One of the few book series that tracks a true relationship, from its first flutter of young love, through separate marriages and an unsuspected child, Empress of the Seven Hills stands apart from the rest of the fantasy and neo-fantasy world. The relationship is so real that it actually serves as a backdrop, rather than a centerpiece for the gripping narrative of political struggle, patrician desire, and war.

When I was eighteen I thought I knew everything. When I was twenty, I knew I had known nothing, but now at least I knew something, and by the time I was twenty two I realized that pattern would recur for the rest of my life. Sabina is the only character I've ever met who follows the same evolution, while never losing her artless, but voracious, desire for life, for Rome, and for her empire.

For an educational, but immersive read that paints a picture of an empire that will never be forgotten, Empress can't be beat.

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