I just had to post this:
“The boy lay in the dirt in the centre of New York’s Kew Park…”
A great opening line, to make the reader do an instant double-take, on a par with the one caused by the clock striking thirteen in George Orwell’s “1984”. Kew Park, as in London’s Kew Gardens, not Central Park? – how did that happen? I was immediately drawn in to this intriguing alternative history scenario.
And what a premise it was! – that ancient Roman society and culture was not extinguished with the fall of the Roman Empire but transferred by a small determined group of traditionalists to a new territory, Roma Nova, north of Italy, where it still survives to the present day. The development of what we call the USA has also taken a rather different course, and that’s where the story begins, before crossing the pond to Roma Nova. (I’ll be intrigued to see what American readers make of this concept, by the way!)
Though still speaking Latin, the Nova Romans are far from untouched by 21st century life, operating futuristic technology, and populated by fatigue-wearing, gun-toting cops who fight to maintain the integrity of their nation’s principles and traditions. (Their Saturnalia celebrations are a great draw for the tourists, apparently!)
What kept me turning the pages was the pacy story of a heroine who overcomes an extraordinary set of challenges, with just enough romantic interest thrown in to add an extra dimension without slowing the action.
By chance, I took this book to read on a holiday in the tiny principality of Luxembourg, fiercely proud of its individuality and its heritage, despite being surrounded by much larger, more powerful states. I found myself thinking, in an unguarded moment, that Luxembourg should be on good diplomatic terms with Roma Nova. For a moment there, I’d believed it was real and was half-way to planning my next holiday there. Quite a trick to pull off, Alison Morton! Looking forward to the sequel already…