Tuesday, June 29

Book Review: The Mistress of Rome

Title: The Mistress of Rome

Author: Kate Quinn

Pages: 464

Summary: The ruthless and enigmatic Emperor Dominitian watches over all, fearing murder from every side . . . except from the woman who fascinates him most.

Thea is a slave girl from Judaea, passionate, musical, and guarded. Purchased as a toy for the spiteful heiress Lepida Pollia, Thea will become her mistress's rival for the love of Arius the Barbarian, Rome's newest and most savage gladiator. His love brings Thea the first happiness of her life - quickly ended when a jealous Lepida tears them apart.

As Lepida goes on to wreck havoc in the life of a new husband and his family, Thea remakes herself as a polished singer for Rome's aristocrats. Unwittingly, she attracts another admirer in the capricious and charismatic emperor of Rome. But Domitian's games have a darker side, and Thea finds herself fighting for both soul and sanity. Many have tried to destroy the Emperor: a vengeful gladiator, an upright senator, a tormented soldier, a streetwise child, a vestal virgin. But in the end, the life of the brilliant and paranoid Domitian lies in the hands of one woman: the Emperor's Mistress.

My Rating: 6.75

What I liked/disliked about the book: I have to say, I didn’t really like this book at all when I first started reading it. In fact it took me a good two months to get past the first twenty pages. Not a good sign, but I stuck with it (mostly because it was a review book). But, by the end of the book I was gripping the pages with anticipation to what would happen next, and how it would all turn out. Making this review go from scathing to not a bad historical fiction read, that I’d recommend to any fan of historical fiction.

Okay first the bad. There are a lot of elements of the book I didn’t like, and many of these were from start to finish. First of all, how the book started. I hated the way the reader was introduced to Thea, and I hated how this element of her cutting her wrists and her little blue bowl, was constantly repeated through the book. I might have been able to sympathize with her more, hadn’t it been the first thing I read, but even still that part was over done, and to me, didn’t add much to her character. Secondly, I found the dialogue awkward at times, and often found it to interrupt the flow of the rest of the story. Finally, I found the alternating first person views of two of the characters, and than third person narrative mixed in with that, with little indication that it would jump to third person narrative confusing. And it too, disrupted the flow of the book. I think if the author just stuck with one first person narrative and third person narrative (perhaps start the chapter off with the third person narrative, instead of a line break), the flow of the story would have worked out much better.

Okay, so now the good. It took about half way through the book before I started to enjoy that, but even before that, I have to commend the author for the amount of research done for the historical background and characters in the book. I thought she did a fantastic job at creating an accurate picture of Rome during the time period and what it was like for its inhabitants. I admit I don’t have much background in this area of history, but from what I do know, it seems to be well done. Also, the author is able to write an engaging climax and the build up to it, which is what had me gripping the novel until the end. I don’t want to go in to much detail, but the last quarter of the book was extremely well done, that part of the plot allowed me to get past some of the issues I had with the book, and become lost in what would happen next. Although the end was some what of a cliché, it was still handled rather well.

Overall it was an alright read for me, but I can see this being a great choice of a read for fans of historical fiction. Oh and the cover art is stunning! (Just a quick little afterthought).

Would I recommend it to read: To the general reader I might not, but I think if you enjoy your historical fiction, than this would be a great choice to read. Yes there were multiple elements I didn’t like, not all of which I listed, but it has a strong plot and is well researched, and I think a lot of readers will find them selves wrapped up in the lives of the characters in the book.

What to read next: Well Nefertiti might be a good choice. But I’m not that experience with historical fiction, so I’m not sure where else to go after this.

Challenges: Read ‘n’ Review, Pages Read, 10/10 Challenge, 100+ Challenge, A - Z Challenge, Countdown Challenge, RYOB Challenge

This is a LibraryThing EarlyReviewers Book. I recieved the book from the program, in exchange for a review.


  1. I just finished this, and felt exactly the same as you did about it. Though I thought I was going to hate and, and sort of did in the beginning, I ended up racing through the pages at the end, thrilled to see what would happen next. I think you are right on target when you say that historical fiction readers will love it.

    As for your next read, if you don't mind rehashing the same time period and place, I would recommend Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran. I haven't read her others, but that was another really god book centered around the Roman elite.

    Whatever you decide to pick next, I hope you enjoy it!!

  2. Good review Jules! For me this book gripped me from the beginning and I really enjoyed it. I have to give you kudos for finishing it...I don't think I could have stuck with a book that took me months to get into. And I'm glad that you ended up enjoying it better than the beginning. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series which I believe comes out next year.

    I highly recommend Nefertiti..actually any books by Michelle Moran are up there among my fave reads!

  3. I enjoy historical fiction, but this one doesn't seem like my cup of tea. Thanks for the honest review.

  4. Zibilee - It's nice to see it wasn't just me, as other reviews I've seen loved it start to finish. The last half did make the book.

    I've already read Nefertiti and Heretic Queen, and alot of people have said Cleopatra's daughter is a good choice. I may read it at some point.

    Amy - I never knew the book was a series. That's interesting, I wonder how that will work. I thought the ending wrapped up well.

    I have read Nefertiti, it was a good book.

    Serena - I enjoy historical fiction to a certain extent, but I haven't found the right author for me yet.