Book Review: Lady of The Eternal City

If someone takes a look at the book reviews I care to write they will think I only read Kate Quinn and Diana Gabaldon, which I swear is not true, although I do read all they have authored that I can get my hands on.

So, it would be an understatement to say I was waiting in exaltation for the latest (and sadly possibly last) installment of Kate Quinn’s Rome Series – Lady of the Eternal City.
I am not quite finished with it yet, but I always find it harder to write reviews when I have already turned the last page. Something about the immensity of the task and my inability to state a simple to-the-point opinion.

Still, as usual, don’t read on, if you do not wish to see SPOILERS for this!

One more time–>>

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERRRRZ!

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First – let’s have it out – this made me weep.

I say weep and not cry, because in my head weeping involves gulping for air as you shed tears, not being able to control the way your chin behaves. Totally me when I realized Antinous was dead. For a brief moment I hoped a crocodile had bitten his hand off and he was otherwise alive and well (what, walking around bleeding and carefree, maybe??) But I refused to believe he was dead and when everyone started howling in the book, I started weeping.

Bust of Antinous

What I (and it seems most people) loved about LEC was Antinous. I liked the way he changed the emperor and brought out the good in him. I was TERRIFIED Hadrian will lapse back to his worst self after he lost his star; but mostly I loved Antinous as a character, because he was thoroughly good. That people should be so much in love with a character, who is first and foremost goodness itself makes me really optimistic about the future of humanity, it does!

Hadrian is enigmatic and magnificent and a very complicated character – kudos to Kate Quinn for doing a man like that justice. (Side note: I imagine him exactly like Eric Bana in Troy, too!)
I have mentioned this in my other reviews of her books, and it’s just as true now – she brings to life glorious times  that have been unjustly neglected by literature and popular culture. Thanks to her I, always the history-loving student, discovered I had missed a lot of lessons about Ancient Rome and learned much that I should have known before. Her books sent me researching about  the Year of the Four Emperors, about Domitian’s sadistic inclinations; about Trajan in Dacia and now, fervently, about Hadrian. I found a short BBC video about him and Antinous and I jumped with delight. So huge thanks, huge kudos and a humble couldyoupelasewriteanotheronepleasepleaseplease to Kate Quinn!

My heart also broke for Vix, our protagonist, who found himself a bit on the sidelines this time, reacting more than acting as is his usual way. His unending struggle to consolidate his family life and his legionary heart was only the backdrop for his misery through most of the book, as he had to serve a man he hated, then have this man steal his son. It was later that I really felt for him, though – when he lost everything at once – his son, his wife, his daughters. I do hope Sabina and he find a way to each other through Annia (that’s the best part about writing premature reviews – hope is alive!) and yet I can’t help but regret how their youth and most of their lives passed, not exactly wasted but adapted to unavoidable situations, so much so that I am not sure they could be any good together at all.

I am not ready for a conclusion just yet, but I will say this – it was a tough change from Diana Gabaldon’s voluminous storytelling where a book only spans a few years (not counting the 20-year-gap between DIA and Voyager) to this comparably short narrative that encompasses the entire long rule of Hadrian but even this stark contrast did not make me feel like LEC was fragmented or too brief. Only heart-breaking.

UPDATED: Omg, omg, omg – Little Marcus is Marcus Aurelius!!

photo credit: antinous via photopin (license)

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