The fourth book in the “Empress of Rome” series, Kate Quinn delivers a tale of love, loyalty, betrayal, ambition, and the moral uncertainty that resides within one’s soul in “Lady of the Eternal City”. Ms. Quinn spins her narrative through the eyes of several characters, each of whom provides a different perspective: Vix the barbarian soldier; Sabina, Vix’s childhood love and Hadrian’s empress who learns to modulate her husband’s dark moods; Antinous, Vix’s adopted son who becomes the love of Hadrian’s life; and Annia, a red-headed free spirit, whose courage makes her the true savior of the empire.
In this novel, complexities come in threes. There are many sets of “trios” that this multi-layered story hinges upon: Vix who loves Sabina despite her marriage to Hadrian; Sabina who learns to accept and even love Hadrian’s lover Antinous; Vix who hates that his son has become his enemy Hadrian’s lover; and my favorite, Vix, Annia, and Sabina (whose relationship I won’t spoil). Friends become foes, loved ones become enemies, and enemies become friends. The overlapping and conflicting ties that bind create an intricate web that culminates in a thrilling conclusion.
The complexity with which the characters are drawn is especially enjoyable. The characters must continuously cross the line between good and evil, sacrificing their consciences to serve a greater good. A darkness that overshadows and threatens to consume the characters makes the story all the richer. The conflict between Antinous and his father Vix when Vix learns Antinous has become Hadrian’s lover is intense. Vix would do anything – well, almost anything – to save his son from the emperor’s clutches, only to realize that doing so would wound the very person he wants to save. The ever shifting balances between love and corruption, mania and devotion, duty and honor are incredible.
Ms. Quinn’s adherence to the historical record is masterfully done. Highly recommended.
I received a complimentary copy of the novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Amazon link is here.