A few reviews from non-retailer sites to give you a flavour…
From ‘Before the Second Sleep’ – 4 April 2016
“A fabulously imagined Roman-descended culture”
In her Roma Nova series, Alison Morton engages the query of What if, and world-building on the possible answers or results. Combining this with her own military experience and consideration of Roman women playing a more significant role than actual history shows, an installment such as Aurelia is born.
Growing Aurelia, of course, requires the possession of its own history, and Morton deftly provides this. Following Theodosius’s 395 (AD) ban on all pagan religious observation, some four hundred Romans depart, setting up an infant society, Roma Nova, on the family-owned land of its senator, who leads the new colony’s twelve prominent clans.
In her brief but fascinating historical note—wisely positioned at the start of the novel—Morton reminds us via Davies’s Vanished Kingdoms that any fledgling state requires certain elements to ensure its survival, amongst them defense, naturally, but also a diplomatic force, revenue system and, the author adds, adaptability.
The Roma Nova of Aurelia, set in the 1960s and populated by the descendants of the Twelve Families, has indeed looked after these interests: silver is their major export and they possess a hardy diplomatic corps, both of which come into play when Aurelia Mitela is sent abroad to investigate the price manipulation of this precious metal.
Aurelia, mother to a sickly child and who also recently lost her own mother under suspicious circumstances, travels to a Berlin different in two major ways, one for her and one for us.
Unlike the rest of Europe in this era, where women generally continue to embrace traditional roles, Roma Novan females are accustomed to being able to move into positions of power; indeed, Aurelia has a successful army career only recently put on hiatus. So she encounters a society unused to her authority and assertive demeanor, though without the fallout of an infamous Austrian-born corporal’s rise to terrible power, which in this alternate history never occurred.
Bringing a reader from the opening of this conception to the point at which Aurelia embarks on her investigation is no mean feat. Morton packs many centuries of history into the backstory and narrative without overwhelming us, but allowing Aurelia to develop a rapport with us as we read. She is a “mere soldier,” though proud of her service. She understands her tiny country has always had to work hard and remain vigilant to overcome their vulnerability. She is embarrassed at her weight gain and worries about her small daughter, and that she cannot fill her late mother’s shoes and keep up with her new duties.
Aurelia is sensitive but practical and as such, I didn’t entirely expect poetic-style passages in this first person narrative. Not that Aurelia isn’t intellectually capable; her character simply seems too no-nonsense. In that respect I was not disappointed for Aurelia’s voice makes sense; it fits perfectly with who she is … even when Morton tosses in a treat here and there.
He opened a glazed door at the far end of the glass wall. A narrow ledge protected by a waist-high glass wall with a curled edge metal top rail extended out about a metre from the wall. He was right; the view was spectacular. The sky glittered like a net of white diamonds on navy velvet. At times like this, you wondered if there really were gods on Olympus who could have created such beauty.
It wasn’t exactly a surprise to read such a lovely passage, as Aurelia indeed is brilliant, without a doubt. In fact, its sparing placement is in keeping with her personality and realistic presentation of her as a character. Morton’s dialogue is smooth and rhythmic, economic and directed.
The author also knows how to keep balance: Aurelia doesn’t run the risk of becoming too perfect because she does, in her worry and fatigue, occasionally overlook crucial bits that lead to new circumstances, for both better and worse. Further character development also occurs as events play out, and Aurelia grows in her awareness, a clever route for Morton to pursue as it lends greater tension to the story as we follow it.
I heard a gasp from Mercuria. Numerus came up beside me and stared at Tella with contempt. Before he could do anything, I stalked over to the older woman. My ribs were hurting, my arm aching and my tiredness was making me irritable. But more than anything, fury raced through me at her unreasonable attitude. She’d made a career out of being obnoxious but it was going to stop here. I halted within centimetres of her, almost touching her clothing.[…] As I turned my back on her, I was trembling, but I walked away in what I hoped was a dignified way.
As fourth in the Roma Nova series, Aurelia nevertheless may be read as a stand alone, and in fact it is prequel to the first three installments. It is easy to see why this is an award-winning novel, action-packed as it is, with Aurelia having to battle just to keep her investigation from being stymied and herself killed as she navigates her way through determination of allies and enemies. We see events through the eyes of Aurelia, gaining insight into the Twelve Families and their relationships with one another, as well as a love interest for Aurelia.
Morton’s familiarity with the inner workings of the military as well as solid research and a fabulously imagined Roman-descended culture—and the rich details provided—make this novel a page turner that not only will inspire readers to finish it in one go, but also take themselves back to Inceptio, number one in the series, and have at it from the beginning.
From the Historical Novel Society – 1 August 2015
Selected as Editor’s Choice, shortlisted for the 2016 HNS Indie Award; now finalist.
“So thoroughly believable”
‘Late 1960s Roma Nova, the last Roman colony that has survived into the 20th century Aurelia Mitela is alone – forced to give up her beloved career as a Praetorian officer. But her country needs her unique skills. Somebody is smuggling silver – Roma Nova’s lifeblood – on an industrial scale.”
The Roma Nova series of excellent alternate history books is a pleasure to read as modern-day exciting thriller adventures, and in the scenario of what if Rome had survived and women ruled?
We are taken to the Roma Nova of the 1960s, to Aurelia Mitela’s story – the grandmother of our heroine in the previous books. She is a young woman experiencing devastating loss. Her career in the Praetorian Guard appears to be finished but she is sent to Berlin to find those responsible for stealing Roma Nova’s silver reserves. Prepare to enter a world of alternative history written so thoroughly believable it is hard to accept that the Roman Empire along with all its intrigues and politics did not survive into the twentieth century.
Alison Morton’s skill as a writer is superb; her heroines are feisty and full of kick-ass determination; the heroes are heroic, and the villains are the thoroughly nasty bad-guys they are meant to be. Add to that, the overall feel and presentation of the books shriek professionalism throughout – starting with the stunning cover design.
Strictly speaking the series does not quite slot into the HNS guideline of ‘Historical Fiction’ (novels are to be set fifty years in the past) but anyone interested in Roman History will enjoy the concept– and as this one is set in the sixties, it ticks all the boxes and deserves to be selected as Editor’s Choice.’
From Kate Quinn on her Ave Historia blog – 29 May 2015
Part of an interview in http://www.katequinnauthor.com/blog.htm?post=997868
‘And now, my thoughts!
AURELIA is something of a prequel in the ROMA NOVA series, detailing the adventures of Aurelia Mitela who is grandmother and adviser to the heroine of the earlier novels–but it stands alone with ease, and will be enjoyed by those new to the series and those who have been reading along. Aurelia is as steadfast as a Roman column, brave and capable, newly head of her illustrious patrician clan and struggling with the age-old balance of work, family, children, love, and the demands of her country. Roma Nova is practically a character in itself; the Roman Empire surviving through the centuries to become a tough little city state that values its women as well as its men, and still prizes Roman virtues like gravitas and service to the Imperium. Fans of ancient Rome will delight in the clever historical details woven throughout: elite guards still called Praetorians, the full pantheon of gods still worshipped, the Roman villas that might have come intact from the age of Augustus, but which are now decked out in 60s technology!
A mysterious industrial smuggling scam sends Aurelia on the hunt, only to find that she is the hunted. The pace never lets up as Aurelia tracks an old enemy from Roma Nova to Germany and even further–and what an enemy he is. He reminded me of my own smug golden-boy villain Pedanius Fuscus from LADY OF THE ETERNAL CITY, with the result that I was grinding my teeth in rage as I flipped pages faster and faster to see if he’d get his come-uppance. A racing climax and a fully satisfying ending–recommended for fans of alternate history and fans of ancient Rome!’
Find out Roma Nova news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways by signing up for her free monthly email newsletter.