Author: Kate Quinn
Part of a Series: Empress of Rome
Type of book: love story, romance, relationships, homosexuality, complexity, Roman empire, Emperor Hadrian, Simon Bar Kohkba, Judea, 118-137, Egypt, conspiracy, morals, Marcus Aurelius, father/son relationship, hidden love
Year it was published: 2015
National bestselling author Kate Quinn returns with the long-awaited fourth volume in the Empress of Rome series, an unforgettable new tale of the politics, power, and passion that defined ancient Rome.
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 . . .
The characters were drawn with complexity and reality, none too good or too bad but all falling somewhere in-between. The women, despite their position, were strong, determined and lionesses protecting their cubs and property. The men were drawn similarly, but ultimately the women were the ones that had all the power. I have to say that Sabina was a favorite character of mine, tied up to duty and hating all of it on the surface, but behind the scenes she is powerful and will do whatever she thinks is best for either the empire or the emperor. Annia is also a determined woman who is physically powerful, temperamental and very tomboyish. She also refuses to listen to anyone. The women that didn't have a staring role such as Mirah also add a great deal of determination and power, especially to the losing side. I was both sad and proud of Mirah's actions and how protective she was of her daughters. The men, Hadrian, Vix, Antinous and Marcus add a lot of complexity with the women; Hadrian is both hateful, powerful and dark who enjoys hunting but is tender to pets and very dedicated to the empire and unrestrained in emotions. Vix is a soldier through and through and physically powerful and doesn't seem to be, well, a scholar. Antinuous is a man of beauty and intelligence as well as confidence who is willing to do whatever he can for Hadrian and for his father. Marcus is an intellectual and a moral man who chooses to practice restraint in life and emotions.
History never leaves us
The story is written in both first person narrative (Vix) and third person narrative (Antonius, Sabina and Annia.) which I've found a little odd. As the years passed in the book, the more characters grew and became fleshed out. None of the characters are weak and helpless and all were very remarkable in the circumstances forced upon them. The dialogue also stayed true to the way the characters were built, Hadrian in the center of it all. The story and actions didn't feel forced and felt natural, although I do admit that a lot of things were shocking for me, and most I didn't see coming. Also, if you are looking for a beautiful and tragic love story of an emperor and a male from lower ranks, then its not to be missed.
Wow...this is just...wow. I'm not sure if my words will do justice for the book, but I will try my best. It's a breathtaking and gripping novel of confidence, enchantment, beauty, history, love, betrayal and full circles. (Really wish I could get my hands on the previous three books.) The book is considered a stand-alone, but I would definitely read the prequels as soon as possible. Even if I took Roman history previously, I barely remember Hadrian, much to my shame. I recall something about the wall in Britain and the infamous Suetonius's Lives of Twelve Caesars. (My assignment included me reading from Julius Caesar to Nero?) thus Hadrian barely registered in my mind, although I did store away the memory of Marcus Aurelius's Meditations and the Jewish uprisings, at least the one that Josephus documents in Jewish Wars and one that was depicted in victory arches. Yet this book and the characters populating it, both real fictional, tug at the heartstrings and emotions through various events. I hated Hadrian, then I loved him and felt sorry for him, and all of it felt like a natural progression instead of something forced. I am happy to see him through so many characters' eyes. One small thing, I'm not sure if its on purpose or not, but grapes are poisonous to dogs (I wasn't sure if it was on purpose or if the author was trying to put a different spin on Hadrian's motives, unintentionally.)
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5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)