Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Review: Daughters of Rome

Summary: A.D. 69. The Roman Empire is up for the taking. The Year of Four Emperors will change everything-especially the lives of two sisters with a very personal stake in the outcome. Elegant and ambitious, Cornelia embodies the essence of the perfect Roman wife. She lives to one day see her loyal husband as Emperor. Her sister Marcella is more aloof, content to witness history rather than make it. But when a bloody coup turns their world upside-down, both women must maneuver carefully just to stay alive. As Cornelia tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered dreams, Marcella discovers a hidden talent for influencing the most powerful men in Rome. In the end, though, there can only be one Emperor...and one Empress. -- Berkley

Last year, I read (and reviewed) MISTRESS OF ROME by Kate Quinn, and I really enjoyed it. I absolutely love reading about ancient Rome  -- it probably goes back to my high school years when I took Latin class for fun; and I was so excited to discover a new author who wrote about this time period. So when I learned that Ms. Quinn had a new book coming out called DAUGHTERS OF ROME, I jumped at the chance to read it.

DAUGHTERS OF ROME actually takes place before MISTRESS OF ROME. I guess you could call it a prequel of sorts since there is some mention of characters that exist in MISTRESS OF ROME, but each book definitely stands on its own. Like she did in MISTRESS OF ROME, Ms. Quinn created some very memorable (and very strong) female characters. In addition, she  selected an incredibly interesting time in Roman history for DAUGHTERS OF ROME to take place -- A.D. 69 when the Roman Empire had no less than four different Emperors.

DAUGHTERS OF ROME tells the story of four female cousins who have very distinct personalities, yet each played an important role in Roman history. There is Cornelia who aspires to be the Emperor's wife, and her younger sister Marcella who enjoys writing about Roman's history rather than being part of it least initially. There is also Lollia, the granddaughter of a freed slave who finds herself in multiple strategic marriages. And finally Diana, the youngest cousin, who loves horses and chariot races. While all of these women appear often throughout the book, I found that Cornelia and Marcella were the best developed (and most complex) characters.

DAUGHTERS OF ROME was kind of like a guilty pleasure for me. It was full of lies and deception, and there certainly wasn't a lack of drama. It almost seemed like a Roman soap opera! That's not necessarily a bad thing because lots of historical fiction reads that way to me. I'm just saying that the four female characters were rather self-absorbed and their actions (and interactions) were very dramatic. What I most appreciated about this novel was the insight it gave me into the incredible changes that the people of Rome went through in just a year's time. Each of the Roman Emperors had very different personalities as well as very different priorities, and I can only imagine the turmoil that these constant changes wreaked on the Romans.

If I'm comparing, I think I enjoyed MISTRESS OF ROME a bit more than DAUGHTERS OF ROME although I still think DAUGHTERS OF ROME is worthwhile read, especially if you are like me and enjoy Roman history. I thoroughly appreciated all of the details about the Roman empires as well as the many cultural references (I do love Roman history!); and if I'm being honest, DAUGHTERS OF ROME reminded me again why the Roman empire eventually fell. I give major kudos to Ms. Quinn for her in-depth research and her blending of fact vs. fiction. However, if I had one complaint about the novel, it was that I didn't feel an affinity with any of the characters. Both Cornelia and Marcella were heavily flawed (and sometimes cruel), and while I found parts of their lives interesting, I felt as if some of their actions were a bit over-the-top.

Having said that, DAUGHTERS OF ROME was full of action and drama and many readers will find this retelling of A.D. 69 Rome to be an incredibly fun read! I recommend DAUGHTERS OF ROME to fans of the HBO series ROME and other readers who enjoy fictional accounts of the Roman Empire.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel. Make sure you come back tomorrow because Ms. Quinn will be stopping by with a guest post.


Swapna said...

The soap opera style usually irritates me, so I'll pass on this one. I think the premise sounds interesting though!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

It seems like the Roman ages are getting to be like Tudor times - very popular for historical fiction.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a totally juicy read. I'm going to have to try Mistress of Rome and then dive into this one.

bermudaonion said...

Maybe the soap opera factor is why I don't read a lot of historical fiction. I bet my mom would enjoy this one!

Audra said...

I think I need to read this book -- I mean to read Mistress of Rome and just never got around to it...but they sound right up my alley!

Ann Summerville said...

Thanks for the review.

Beth F said...

Oh my gosh, I bet I'd really like this one. Rome *was* one big soap opera around the time of Caesar and Augustus! I love the HBO series Rome and I love reading about Rome in general.

Meghan said...

I have Mistress of Rome on my shelf - I haven't managed to read it yet but I should! Sometimes I am definitely in the mood for a good bit of gossipy Roman historical fiction.

Meghan @ Medieval Bookworm

Anna said...

I don't mind all that drama as long as it doesn't come across as cheesy as a soap opera. Sounds like her books are worth giving a try.