(also posted to Amazon.co.uk with 4 stars)
This is not an historical novel, being set entirely in the present day, but what may prove of interest to HNS readers is that the author has set her plot in an alternate history timeline.It is a modern thriller. In New York, twenty-something Karen Brown’s life is turned upside down as both the ‘big brother’ corruption of a modern state and a secret from her past collide with unexpected violence. Rescued by a charismatic alpha male, she discovers a new life in central Europe, in her late mother’s homeland, only to discover that her past and its secrets are determined to catch up with her.
So far, so readable, but what catches the HNS’s eye is that Karen’s late mother’s homeland is Roma Nova, a Latin speaking, pagan state with a penchant for creating excellent technology and a sizable voice in global politics. The premise is that in AD 395 after the Emperor Theodosious’ decree banning all pagan religions, some 400 Romans loyal to the old gods and presenting some 12 major patrician families left Italy to found a new state. So in Roman Nova Saturnalia is still celebrated instead of Christmas (and is very popular with tourists!), gladiatorial combats are popular and the Praetorian Guard has become something like the SAS.
The alternate timeline is presented in a short introduction, and most of its consequences are drip fed throughout the text. Personally I would have liked more of the history, but this is the first in a series and perhaps the author has deeper plans. In the meantime, this is a convincing thriller with some interesting background.
Karen Brown works hard to make her own way in New York, present day, alternate reality, but when her life is threatened after a kidnapping attempt, she must make a decision to stay and be eliminated by a brutal government enforcer, or renounce her citizenship and flee to the land where her mother was born, Roma Nova.
I really enjoyed this novel with its great characters and fast-moving, action filled plot. I was especially intrigued by its alternate world where the European country Roma Nova exists, a neutral but powerful nation founded sixteen centuries ago by Roman exiles. It is a nation run by women and it is here that the few remaining members of Karen’s family reside. Alison Morton has given a real ancient Roman feel to this novel, portraying a world where Latin is still spoken and the land is ruled by the twelve families descended from Roman times. The setting is fully developed and totally believable. Roma Nova seems a wonderful, if very different, place to live and Karen does have to adjust to a totally new way of life. But her grandmother is a very sympathetic person, as well as one of the leading figures of this small nation.
Karen is threatened again by Renschman and she then develops her own inner strengths, taking on a new career, and finding some unique friends along the way. These supporting characters are both interesting and complex, adding another layer of richness to the story. The pacing is excellent with never a dull moment as Karen moves from one adventure to another, learning and growing as she encounters past secrets and present day realities.
Lovers of mystery and suspense as well as lovers of books about alternate realities are sure to enjoy Inceptio. It is a complex and exciting novel with an incredibly rich setting.
STOP PRESS! INCEPTIO was voted Book of the Month in January 2014
Dan Brown could do with a few lessons from Ms Morton.
Posted 24 May 2013 by Marisa Wikramanayake, freelance journalist and editor
If you think it sounds like a thriller, you would be right. If you thought it sounded like a Dan Brown novel you will be gratified to know that you were wrong. Dan Brown could do with a few lessons from Ms Morton.
All stories start with a “What if?” moment. But here the “What if?” moment is colossally huge. What if at the end of the Roman Empire, a group of citizens struck out and formed a small nation-state to continue living the way they had in Rome and that country persisted through the ages, adapting to become a matriarchal society?
It’s an example of this new sub-genre that has popped up on the scene: alternate history thrillers.
In Inceptio, Roma Nova exists, Adolf Hitler never did and there was just the Great War. In Inceptio, protagonist Karen Brown has what she herself eventually refers to as a “Princess Diaries” moment as she suddenly realises her Roma Novan heritage means a lot more than just having a Roma Novan mother and an American father and that actually the combination is probably going to cause her a hell of a lot of trouble.
The kind of trouble that gets you put on a terrorist list, kidnapped, nearly murdered, over and over again, despite having a rather fetching modern day version of a Praetorian Guard (gladiator for the rest of us) around to protect you. The kind of trouble that makes you give up US citizenship and run for the border, literally.
Did I mention that there is a superhero in it? Well, there is. Briefly but nevertheless there is one. And Roman villas. Karen Brown finds herself slowly stripping layers of her identity that she has clung to for so long, piecing together details of what her legacy was supposed to be, what it ended up being and who her parents were which is important because there is a psychopath on her tail, intent on killing her and she has no idea why.
Gladiators, even modern day ones, can take one too many knocks to the head and be stupid so love does not run smooth and Karen finds herself eager to protect herself and after major training at boot camps and gyms, transforms herself from an All American, English speaking advertising executive to a Latin speaking, I will break the rules to get where I need to be, secret police agent/Praetorian Guard/ special forces soldier/operative so awesome there isn’t one specific term for it. Which kind of knocks everyone else for a loop but by this point that is becoming par for the course.
The story isn’t boring at all. The twists and turns are insane, unexpected and yet logical when you think about what this Ms Brown is going through. The final twist is the pay off and when you get to it after being unable to put the book down, you are not disappointed. Ms Morton provides a quick list of who’s who at the start with all the Latin names but you don’t need it to navigate the story.
The quirky sense of humour is apparent from the way Karen views her situation and those of others to the way everyone swears by using the name of a Roman god. “Juno!”, “Mercury Esus!”, “By Jupiter!” and so on. I am planning to adopt this just to confuse the living daylights out of everyone else I know.
The best part? Inceptio can standalone as a story but is part one of a trilogy. Which is apt. ‘Inceptio’ is Latin for ‘inception’ which means ‘the start’.
Which is exactly where you should begin. Now.
Well written, imaginative, and gripping all in one
Posted 2 June 2013 by Kate Jones, of Canadian book blog Kate’s Bookcase
With this blog, I am occasionally contacted by authors and publishers asking to send me books to read and review. I end up turning down more of these offers than I accept for two reasons: 1) My to-be-read stack is overflowing and so I don’t want to pile it even higher, even if the book is free, and 2) I don’t want to accept books that I don’t think that I will like since, fun as it is to write negative reviews, I don’t want to be in a position where I have to write a negative review on a book that was given to me for free!
Fortunately, I am not in that situation with this book!
When Alison Morton approached me last winter and offered to send me a copy of Inceptio when it was published, I was intrigued by the concept. This book is considered to be “Alternative History”. What if the Roman Empire hadn’t fallen? What if a faction had left Rome and settled in a corner of Europe, and had created an independent country which had survived and thrived through to today? I have to say that the Roman period of history has fascinated me since I was young and exposed to novels like Eagle of the Ninth. In high school, I wanted to learn Latin (my school had the only Latin teacher left in the school board), but I was the only one in the school who wanted to learn Latin and so the class was cancelled. And so I agreed to receive a copy of this book for review.
It did take me a bit to get into, but I blame this on the fact that I started reading it in the evenings while sleeping in a tent on a weekend filled with 12-hour days of meetings. When I was able to start reading it for real this week, I was hooked. I blame this book for too many nights this week spent up waaaay too late reading, since I couldn’t put this book down.
The main character, Karen Brown / Carina Mitela has lived her whole life in the country of Eastern United States. Both of her parents are dead, and she is very self-sufficient in New York City. But then her world starts falling apart as she is fired due to corruption from the volunteer position that gives meaning to her life; and all of a sudden her life is being threatened. She then discovers that she can renounce her EUS citizenship and become a citizen of Roma Nova as her mother was from Roma Nova, and she is her grandmother’s heir.
I was fascinated with the Roma Nova society. It is matriarchal – the women have the power, and the eldest female inherits from her mother. There are elements from ancient Roman society that have carried over, including the gods and the festivals and the language (Latin isn’t dead after all!); and yes, prisoners of the state are sentenced to hard labour in the silver mines. It is a very hierarchical society, and Karen is lucky to have been born into the top layer; however the genders are treated equally, with maybe a slight preference towards females.
And speaking of females, let me say that Karen / Carina was an awesome heroine! She takes charge of her own life and she does things her way rather than being a pawn – she is a kick-ass (literally, at times) character as she trains her body and her mind and rises to the top of the Roma Nova military (the Praetorian Guard Special Forces).
If I had one complaint about this book it would be that it is almost too action-packed. It almost felt like 3 or 4 books crammed into one. Some stretching out of the time in between the action or description of normal day-to-day life in Roma Nova would have been nice.
I was, however, excited to read at the end of the book that there is a second book in the series planned – Perfiditas.
Thank you, Alison Morton for writing this book and for sending me a copy! It was a treat to read a book that was well written, imaginative, and gripping all in one.