These are only a few, but give you a flavour…
Well, if the blurb doesn’t hook you in, then nothing will. This is a thriller that at least matches, excels even, all expectations you might have of similar books. More realistic than the James Bond movies, PERFIDITAS goes way beyond anything that has been done before. Set in an alternative, but similar to the world of today, Roma Nova is a fascinating concept, created by the incredibly intelligent mind of the author, and drawn from her love of all things Roman.
Before I began reading, I was under the impression that you didn’t need to read the first in the series, (INCEPTIO), before you read PERFIDITAS, and although there is an intro describing the alternate historical background of the whole world, plus a list of characters placed in their contexts, I felt that due to the fast pace of the book, and the amount of characters Ms Morton juggles, a new reader would find it hard going to know what, who, when and why. So, I felt that I was at an advantage, having read INCEPTIO, and was glad that I had, for it enabled me to understand the wonderful intriguing world I was immersing myself in.
I loved the idea of Rome continuing after its fall in the 5thc and beginning again in a new state, with the name of Roma Nova: New Rome. And the fact that it was ruled by women, because hey, the guys did a terrible job, didn’t they; adds a whole new dynamic to the concept. Ms Morton has formulated this new Rome using the most prominent elements from their past, such as the language, Latin of course, the Praetorian Guard, which still exists, Domus, the name used for home, and amusingly, the old Roman gods as a way of swearing. “Juno!”, is one example. All this serves to create a believable, fascinating world, that is not only modern, it is leading the world with its advanced technology and systems; one such example is the el-pad; got an idea what that is? What is even more extraordinary, is that Morton devises new customs for the Roma Novans, some of which have been part of this new world’s traditions going back over 1500 years. I particularly liked the Twelve Family code which, under this, a noble family has the right to question a delinquent member of their family whom they believe has committed some criminal offence. You see, when Rome collapsed 1500 years (or there abouts) earlier, amongst those who made the exodus to what was to become Roma Nova, were 12 of the noblest families. These families were the most powerful ruling clans, and in the 21stc, their status as such is still preserved, with women always at the head of the clan. To balance this power, members of the twelve families have a greater responsibility of service to the state and are expected to behave better than the average citizen.
This book is definitely plot driven, and told through the eyes of Countess Carina, therefore this, and the fast pace, has to be taken into consideration when examining the characterisation of all the players. There were many characters of which I would have liked to know more about their emotions and their inner machinations. This is probably more difficult to do when writing in the first person, as Ms Morton does. That is one of my pet annoyances of books written in the first person, because I like to get right into the minds of the characters and feel that I am within them. All that aside, I can still read, and enjoy books written in this method, though they are few and far between, and this second book in the Roma Nova series I have selected as being one of them. as it is so unique in its presentation.
I enjoyed Carina’s character, she is not the shy, retiring type, she gets things done, and often her maverick -style way of doing things, gets her in all sorts of trouble. Her husband, the hunky Conrad, who has taken her family name as his own in the new Roman tradition, finds this aspect of her, less endearing than perhaps he should, but he is not only her husband but her work superior, and this can be conflicting for the couple. With such strong personalities, there are bound to be the usual disagreements and as well as the trouble on the home front, the couple are faced with difficulties aplenty as the plot unfolds. And it does so, very quickly, I might add, for soon it is obvious that someone is out to get both Carina and her husband. And when I say ‘get’ I mean, totally destroy in the most horrible, nasty way achievable.
Roma Nova, as you may have probably guessed by now, had only survived because of their social structure. Women no longer were assigned to the confines of their homes, playing good little wives, they had become the heads of their families, whilst the men were constantly at war in those early days of their colonies’ survival. The women’s take over of their governing systems, meant that both men, and women, now, would have to perform ‘service’ to their country and that ethos seems to have continued right into the 21st century. A tiny country hidden away between New Austria and Italy, Roma Nova had become one of the most powerful, rich states in the world, surrounded by bigger boys who possibly want to take over. They had to be tough in order to survive, following a male dominated brutal consulship and civil war. And there are strains of modern day Israel’s kick ass attitude, in the way they run their regime:
...with characteristic resilience, the families’ structures fought back and reconstructed their society, re-learning the basic principles of Republican virtue, while subtly changing it to a more representational model for modern times.
But what has this book got to offer? For one, Ms Morton has a snappy, concise style of writing that flows beautifully. The pace and atmosphere are just at the right speed and mood. The characters, are many, and sometimes when a new name popped up, I had trouble remembering who they were, despite having read the first book. Thank goodness there is a cast list in the form of a Dramatis Personae of all the characters and from which section of society they belong. Please readers remember to look in the back of the book for this. However, that aside, my enjoyment of reading this book was not hampered by this little niggle.
It is quite clear that Ms Morton is an excellent writer and story-teller. She has her own unique voice when conjuring up her plot lines. The world she has built is done so with integrity. It is formulated and constructed with faithful authenticity and is representational of a true society with its origins in Rome. I am sure that most readers will enjoy jumping into the arena of 21st century Rome, and will wholly accept the offer of a ride into the dark, almost invisible world of intelligence and criminality in this exciting, cleverly manufactured tale.
This is a book I would highly recommend to those who enjoy alternative fiction, where events from the past have different endings, pushing the future into different pathways to produce a new, fresh world with which to play in. Also, if you enjoy thrillers, with espionage and intelligence as its background, you will love this book. Highly recommended.
From The Review – 27 July 2015
‘To write alternative history carries some likeness to writing fantasy, in that the world creation is a fundamental part of the writing endeavour. In difference to fantasy, writers of alternative history have to tread a very fine line between the invented and the impossible, i.e. expectations are that the writer creates a society we, as readers firmly rooted in our reality, can conceive as being an alternative outcome had things been somewhat different.
Authors like Robert Harris do this with panache. Writers like Stephen Fry do it with ironic humour. And writers like Alison Morton just do it, a few deft brushstrokes, no more, and Roma Nova is a feasible little European country in a world where Adolf Hitler never happened and where the northern parts of the American continent remain divided between former English, French and Spanish dominions.
Roma Nova lies snuggled into the folds of the Alps. A last refuge for a group of Romans fleeing the devastation of the Germanic invasions, this is where Roman Senator Apulius and his family and followers settled, ready to make a last stand if needed. Our staunch Roman was married to a spirited Celtic woman who gave him four equally spirited daughters but no son. And so, through a combination of chance and expediency, Roma Nova developed into a matriarchial society, a country where the family heads always are female, but where traditions and concepts of duty towards the state remain rooted in Roman values.
So well does Ms. Morton paint this little country of hers that I find myself considering just how to travel there – by car? By train? Until I remember that I can’t go to Roma Nova – not outside the pages of Ms. Morton’s novels. Fortunately, she has so far written four and is intent on writing a couple more.
Now, as we all know, a setting does not a novel make. However intriguing Roma Nova is, however fascinating Ms. Morton’s descriptions are of Saturnalia celebrations, of funerals as per ancient Roman rites, it would be a thin soup indeed had Ms. Morton not also gifted us with Carina Mitela and her husband Conrad Mitelus.
Carina Mitela became a friend of mine in Inceptio, the first of the series. Tough when so required, careful with whom she allows to penetrate the shield of reserve with which she manages her life and her emotions, she is a woman who believes in herself, believes even more in right and wrong, and who is dedicated enough to doing her duty that she will risk her own life if so required.
Carina was not always Carina. Born in the E.U.S. (Eastern United States), she used to be Karen, a rather downtrodden and insecure Karen, until one day she was appraised of her family in Roma Nova and whisked back to her ancestral country by Conrad, her husband-to-be. When Perfiditas opens, Carina has lived in Roma Nova for seven years or so, successful in her military career, proud mother of three and happily married to Conrad.
Her husband is as dedicated, as tough, as she is. He is also somewhat damaged due to a harsh childhood, and his reluctance to talk about his experiences leave him far more vulnerable than he realises – or at least wants to accept. Instead of a touchy-feely approach to these sensitive memories, Conrad has recreated himself from a hurting, wounded boy to an efficient and self-sufficient military leader, capable of much warmth and affection towards those he loves – as long as there is no conflict between his private life and what he perceives as his duty to Roma Nova.
At times, these two people tear each other apart – and things are not exactly simplified by the fact that Conrad is Carina’s commanding officer. Sometimes, when Conrad makes a call he considers correct in his role as Praetorian Legate, he is at the same time figuratively back-handing his wife over the face – or so she feels. Are there consequences? Of course.
Ms. Morton does a great job of describing the tension caused by Conrad repeatedly setting duty before Carina. Yes, sometimes Carina breaks every rule in the book – for all the right reasons – so maybe he’s entitled to some irritation, but there are times when this reader wants to take the stupid man by the shoulders and shake him until his teeth rattle, so stiff and insensitive does he seem. Besides, Conrad has problems handling the fact that at times it’s Carina saving him from dire death rather than the other way around. Especially when she uses her underworld network to do so…especially when it is rather apparent Carina is not entirely unaffected by the leader of this network.
Which, just by chance, brings us to Apollodorus, the enigmatic man who has previously helped Carina out of a tight spot or two in a rather unorthodox manner. Apollodorus is a man of night and shadow, instinctively disliked by Conrad, discreetly admired by Carina – after all, she more or less owes the man her life. Cultivated, smooth and possessed of eyes as dark as pools of pitch, Apollodorus has only ever loved one woman – Carina. No wonder Conrad raises his hackles whenever Apollodorus is around.
It irritates Carina that Conrad will not extend the benefit of the doubt to Apollodorus. It makes Conrad see that his wife does not steer clear of this dangerous, amoral man, a man as subtle as a stalking leopard, ruthless and efficient, unfailingly polite and always in control. Apollodorus is a puppet-master, and just how intricately he weaves his various threads is revealed in bits and pieces, causing Perfiditas to twist and turn like a trapped snake.
Other than the three protagonists, Ms. Morton has gifted us with a broad cast of characters it is easy to relate to, all the way from Carina’s impressive grandmother, the mater familias Aurelia, to former gladiatrix Mossia. With an economy of words, a few lines of description, no more, she brings her extensive cast to life, making each and every one of them distinctive.
The plot is skillfully constructed: in this case Roma Nova is threatened by a band of determined coup-makers who want nothing more than to return Roma Nova to its true Roman roots, i.e. relegate women back to a position of invisibility, reduced to being wives and mothers, subservient to men. As a modern woman, I find the matriarchal society portrayed by Ms. Morton quite fascinating – even more so because fundamentally Roma Nova is an egalitarian society – men and women are true equals in all aspects of life. The wannabe coup-makers don’t agree: they are sick of the rule of women and set out to throw off this terrible yoke of oppression.
Nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and as Carina digs deeper into a plot that not only threatens her country but also her loved ones, she uncovers one layer after the other of rot. In defence of her own, Carina is formidable, holding herself together even during those periods when Conrad leaves her to do battle alone. But it costs her, and her vulnerability, her sensation of abandonment when Conrad retreats into professionalism rather than supporting her, his wife, is excellently depicted.
To an exciting plot and well-developed characters, must be added the casual if precise descriptions, bringing to life everything from the holding cells of the Praetorian Guard Special Forces, to the streets and buildings of Roma Nova. In expressions, in off-hand depictions of traditions and rituals, Ms. Morton’s passion for things truly Roman shines through. Ms. Morton has done her research, and so heavy togas are discarded casually, studded sandals clip over tiled floors, young girls are proud of their new pallas, the atriums are adorned by the statues of the ancestors – all of this without ever becoming contrived.
Ms. Morton takes her readers for quite the ride in this book, and passages of introspection vie for space with fast-paced action scenes that have this reader holding her breath – or chewing her nails. While Ms. Morton writes strong and fluid prose, it is her dialogue that blows me away. Pitch-perfect, distinctive and vivid, it brings Carina and all the rest to vibrant life, offering insight into the various character’s thoughts without ever sacrificing rhythm and pace.
In conclusion, Perfiditas is a great read, a book that has you saying, “Hmm?” without raising your eyes from the page should anyone attempt to talk to you while immersed. Here and there, I spot a missing quotation mark, but such minor beauty spots are, in this case, more like freckles – distracting, but also cute.
Unfortunately for me, I have already read all Ms. Morton’s books. I crave another – soon! So, Ms. Morton, to paraphrase a famous Latin quote: Scribere necesse est, vivere non est necesse or in other words, please get on with it and write the next one!
From the Historical Novel Society
Not strictly an historical novel, Perfiditas is an alternative history adventure thriller that will delight crime fiction readers, but may also be enjoyed by Roman fans as Ms Morton has very cleverly blended into a modern tale the ‘what-might-happen’ had the Roman Empire survived to present day. Perfiditas continues the story started in the first book of this intriguing series, Inceptio, with more thrilling excitement from kick-ass Captain of Special Forces, Carina Mitela – the Special Forces being the equivalent to the Praetorian Guard.
An attempted coup threatens the matriarchal government of Roma Nova, which could destroy two millennia of achievement. Carina hopes to put matters right, but betrayal sees her becoming a fugitive, going undercover to preserve her family’s honour, and she is forced to fight her way back with her skills of courage, determination and wonderful gadgetry.
This is a fast-paced read, although I did find the opening a little difficult to get into, trying to sort out the backstory and recall the main players from book one, who they were, what they did. Reading this on Kindle I did not see the useful cast list until the end – maybe slot it in at the beginning? (Or better still, read the hardcopy book, not the e-book version!) However, the breathless plots and sub-plots soon took hold – one in particular that I did not see coming was most exciting.
The attention to detail is superb, as is the believability of this alternative history existence. It is a skilfully and intelligently written story, with first-class production and presentation: all indie books should aim for this professional standard.
From History Undressed 23 April 2014
An intriguing view of an alternate world, where the Roman empire didn’t exactly fall and women rule politics, Morton has created a mysterious thriller in Perfiditas. I love alternate histories, and the author has done a wonderful job of creating a new, rich and powerful country, Roma Nova. Perfiditas takes us into a world that seems much like our own, but it is drastically different. Since I read Roman historicals, I liked the subtle undertones of history and smiled at the authors blending of it with a modern technological world.
(Check out the pics the author has on her site if you want to “see” Roma Nova.)
The heroine, Captain Carina Mitela, is tough as nails–hard core training, a superb detective, and all around superwoman–but we also see her softer side, the love of her husband, children, family. She was a character I easily connected with. I love strong heroines with unique personalities, and Carina definitely fits the profile.
What starts out as a simple plea for help from the woman who helps to train Carina, turns into something more mysterious and life-threatening. What seems at first to have nothing to do with herself, actually turns out to be quite a conspiracy and with Carina and her family stuck right dead center. A coup to overthrow the government ends up driving a wedge between Carina and everything she holds dear, and the only way to save the country/family she holds dear is to risk it all.
Fast-paced, well-written and full of angst, Perfiditas was a very entertaining read!
I would recommend reading the first book, Inceptio, because the majority of the world-building and character development takes place within it (though it is delved deeper in Perfiditas). We still see it all vividly in Perfiditas, but as with any series where a new world is created, and a history altered, it helps to start from the very beginning.
Book Nerd 21 April 2014
Perfiditas by Alison Morton was an adventure! I think that his author really has done her research. She greats a “Roma Nova”. Captain Carina Mitela was a fantastic lead character! I found her to be interesting, strong and very capable! She was a great example of a strong roman women. This alternative roman is led by women! I also loved that idea of an alternative history! I feel completely inadequate in Roman history but I really enjoyed the concept! I loved the combination of history, adventure and mystery! Carina is accused of conspiring against the Praetorian Guard Special Forces. She has to work hard to prove her innocence. The witty dialogues were a great bonus. Inceptio was the previous book in this series, and although I did not read it, it did not affect my ability to follow and enjoy this story. I was completely impressed with the author’s ability to present a historical roman in the “now”. Clever storyline, fantastic author, original plot!