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Posted January 18, 2012
Realistic Character Depiction
In the tenth novel in Steven Saylor’s Roma Sub Rosa series, the Roman world is in the grips of a civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey, and everyone except the wealthiest citizens suffer from food shortages and the effects of rampant inflation.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
The novel opens when a woman known as Cassandra falls dead in the arms of Gordianus the Finder, gasping that she was poisoned. Known as a seeress like her Trojan namesake, this Cassandra’s personal history is unknown. While Gordianus organizes and pays for her funeral, he is surprised to see that the only people outside his family who attend her cremation are seven prominent women of Rome. Gordianus sets out to visit the seven women to find Cassandra’s murderer.
The story flashes back and forth between Gordianus’s investigation of Cassandra’s death as he interviews the seven Roman women who must have some connection to the dead woman, and his own relationship with Cassandra. As these two story lines are woven together, we learn the truth about Cassandra, as well as a side to Gordianus’s character that has not been shown before.
Saylor’s meticulous knowledge of ancient Rome allows him to depict the daily life of the main characters in a way that makes them as real as my next door neighbors. As the novel builds toward the climax, the threads of intrigue come together in events that are far beyond the imaginings of the Finder and his family.
The novel begins with a considerable amount of back story in Roman politics, and I found the Roman names of the cast of characters to be confusing. Since the story begins with Cassandra’s funeral, the chronology at the beginning of the book was no help. It begins some forty years before and leads up to the events in the story.
I enjoyed Saylor’s previous book, “Last Seen in Massilia,” so much, that I hope the weaknesses in “A Mist of Prophecies” are a glitch and he will be back to his delightfully readable and fascinating historical fiction soon.
Reviewed by Kathleen Heady, author of “The Gate House” for Suspense Magazine
Posted January 6, 2011
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