Adventure, danger and crime, a historical and fantasy state, all led by a resourceful and determined woman make this a terrific read. Subtly creating a female led country set in a twentieth century Europe that has endured just one Great War, the details of daily life are fascinating and well thought though by the author. This book is part of a series set in Roma Nova, where the royal family and inheritance runs through the females, though it is completely standalone in terms of character and plot. Elements of the characters run through the novels, and the mature and confident way in which the plot, characters and setting are handled make it a wonderful read. Fast paced and with plenty of twists, this book tells the story of Aurelia Mitela, a young woman who has served in the military, who has a young daughter, and is suddenly thrust into a world of diplomacy and espionage. To add to the tension, a long term and cunning enemy is determined to attack Aurelia in any way possible. This is a thoroughly enjoyable novel and I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this excellent book.
The book begins with a section called “Duty”, as Aurelia gets ready to go on a military manoeuvre on the borders of the independent state of Roma Nova. Despite or perhaps of her extreme closeness to the ruler of the state, Imperatrix Justina, she is horrified that her mother and daughter are in the company of Caius Tellus, a distant relative who has always been jealous of Aurelia as he has lived a life of a gambler and waster. Nevertheless she departs for the border, in bitter weather, with her unit, and almost immediately there is an attack. She is wounded, but fights on as some of her fellow soldiers are in danger. She is dramatically called back as there is a family crisis, and she soon finds herself immersed in the daily running of the family estate and business interests. As she collapses from her obsessive dedication to the work she is given orders to go the Germanic state, where she discovers that being a delegate with a royal connection gets her a lot of attention and not all of it pleasant. Her liberty is put in doubt, as she has to make every effort to survive on any terms. It is fortunate that she is skilled in self defence and extremely quick witted, as it seems that everything is against her returning home to her little girl. As she seizes the chance to find some affection or even love, she is placed in an impossible position. With a determined man targeting her, can she fight her way through?
This is definitely a novel for those who enjoy action and a fast paced read. Yet also admirable are the small details, the young men who are the typists, the realisation that in this historically based fantasy women are truly in control, without necessarily dismissing all men as worthless. Morton has again succeeded in creating a world that makes perfect sense, with rules and laws that are logical, that feature the frustrations and other emotions that are familiar, and gives a new perspective on the abilities of women. Aurelia is a wonderful character, tough and forthright, quick and realistic. I recommend this powerful novel which maintains a strong pace throughout and has so many twists and turns, surprises and incidents that I struggled to put it down.
Today we attended several events at the Derby Book festival, all of which were very enjoyable, and in the case of the session on “Refugee Tales”from those who seek to support those detained at Gatwick airport, extremely moving. I hope to post more about these books soon,after I have completed my conference!