Review: Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn

by Kate Quinn

SYNOPSIS: An exciting debut: a vivid, richly imagined saga of ancient Rome from a masterful new voice in historical fiction.
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-that is quickly ended when a jealous Lepida tears them apart.
As Lepida goes on to wreak 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 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 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.
In the summer of 1993 in between my junior and senior year in high school I had the unique opportunity to travel to Rome as part of the Travel and Tourism program at my school. We spent 9 days in Rome with a day trip to Florence and walked what felt like to be a gazillion miles. Though after a horrific experience with the taxi drivers of Rome, the walking didn’t seem all that bad after all! One of my favorite sights following, of course, the Sistine Chapel was the Coliseum. This massive work of Roman architecture is awe-inspiring in person, if not a tad frightening and intimidating. At the age of 16 I had neither the knowledge nor the appreciation of what actually took place inside the Coliseum, I mean I knew basically what it was used for, but nothing more in depth than that. Well now that’s changed and author Kate Quinn has given me the chance to go back to Rome via her fabulous debut novel, Mistress of Rome.

Mistress of Rome takes place in the 1st century during the reign of Domitian, the eleventh Roman Emperor. 1st century Rome was a land ruled by classes and wealth, where violence reined and the celebrities of the day were gladiators. The Romans were a blood thirsty people who routinely gathered in the Coliseum to watch animals and gladiators fight to the death…some of the gladiators were convicts or prisoners of war, who had no say in their fate, while others chose the life of a gladiator simply because they sought fame and riches. Slaves were also a common part of Roman life. A slave was the property of their owner and could be treated however their master fancied with no fear of punishment. Mistress of Rome is about two such people – Thea, a Jewish slave purchased to serve Lepida, the daughter of a wealthy nobleman and Arius, a convict from Briton who becomes one of the most famous gladiators in Rome. Against all odds these two people find true love and will persevere through any obstacles put in their way to be together.

With colorful and intriguing characters and Quinn’s dynamic writing style, coupled with brilliant descriptions of Rome and the violent life of a gladiator, Mistress of Rome is how historical fiction should be written! There was never a point in the novel where I got bored, rather quite the opposite….I ran back to it whenever I had a free minute and read the last 350 pages in one sitting. It was that good!! Needless to say, I was over the moon excited to read that there will be a sequel and I believe also a prequel in the works! You can bet that I will be at the door of my local bookstore on release day!

I give Mistress of Rome an enthusiastic 5 crowns!

FCC: I received this book via the publisher for review.




  1. Great review Amy! I completely agree with all you said. Mistress of Rome was a brilliant debut and I am so excited about the sequel and prequel!

  2. this book sounds wonderful, thanks for the review!

  3. I have read many raving reviews for this book. Great review!

  4. You know, I have to agree - when you go to these great places as a kid, you never get the full experience out of it and always regret it later. Great review and I am so excited to hopefully get to read it soonish.

  5. Sounds like a truly good read. You read the last 350 pages in one sitting begs the question "How long is this book?"
    This is a time period I have not read much about, but which has always interested me.

  6. I have to go out and buy this book...

  7. Thank you for a wonderful review - I'm so glad you enjoyed my book. I'll get to work on that sequel and prequel for you right now!

  8. I have this book on my TBR and REALLY need to read it. I saw on Facebook, I think it was you, yesterday that it was a must read. Now, if I could just find the time! I did read one mediocre review of it today, but generally it seems everyone agrees it is worth reading!


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