Thursday, May 28, 2015

Review: Lady of the Eternal City

Kate Quinn
Lady of the Eternal City
By Kate Quinn
Berkley, March 2015

About the Book

Elegant, secretive Sabina may be Empress of Rome, but she still stands poised on a knife’s edge. She must keep the peace between two deadly enemies: her husband Hadrian, Rome’s brilliant and sinister Emperor; and battered warrior Vix, who is her first love. But Sabina is guardian of a deadly secret: Vix’s beautiful son Antinous has become the Emperor’s latest obsession.

Empress and Emperor, father and son will spin in a deadly dance of passion, betrayal, conspiracy, and war. As tragedy sends Hadrian spiraling into madness, Vix and Sabina form a last desperate pact to save the Empire. But ultimately, the fate of Rome lies with an untried girl, a spirited redhead who may just be the next Lady of the Eternal City . . .

My Review

The fourth book in the Empress of Rome Series, Kate Quinn delivers a tale of love, loyalty, betrayal, ambition, and the moral uncertainty that resides within one’s soul in Lady of the Eternal City. Ms. Quinn spins her narrative through the eyes of several characters, each of whom provides a different perspective: Vix the barbarian soldier; Sabina, Vix’s childhood love and Hadrian’s empress who learns to modulate her husband’s dark moods; Antinous, Vix’s adopted son who becomes the love of Hadrian’s life; and Annia, a red-headed free spirit, whose courage makes her the true savior of the empire.

In this novel, complexities come in threes. There are many sets of trios that this multi-layered story hinges upon: Vix who loves Sabina despite her marriage to Hadrian; Sabina who learns to accept and even love Hadrian’s lover Antinous; Vix who hates that his son has become his enemy Hadrian’s lover; and my favorite, Vix, Annia, and Sabina (whose relationship I won’t spoil). Friends become foes, loved ones become enemies, and enemies become friends. The overlapping and conflicting ties that bind create an intricate web that culminates in a thrilling conclusion.

The complexity with which the characters are drawn is especially enjoyable. The characters must continuously cross the line between good and evil, sacrificing their consciences to serve a greater good. A darkness that overshadows and threatens to consume the characters makes the story all the richer. The conflict between Antinous and his father Vix when Vix learns Antinous has become Hadrian’s lover is intense. Vix would do anything—well, almost anything—to save his son from the emperor’s clutches, only to realize that doing so would wound the very person he wants to save. The ever shifting balances between love and corruption, mania and devotion, duty and honor are incredible.

Ms. Quinn’s adherence to the historical record is masterfully done. Highly recommended.

Rebecca Henderson Palmer

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