Having enjoyed Inceptio, the first book in Alison Morton’s Roma Nova alternative history thriller, I was looking forward to reading the sequel Perfiditas.
Whereas the first book was about the heroine’s transformation from New York advertising executive Karen Brown into Captain Carina Mitela of the Praetorian Guard, the security force of the state of Roma Nova, this one takes us forward in time to when she’s been living there for a few years, with husband and children, as part of the establishment. (She discovered in Inceptio that she was part of one of the Twelve Families that formed the state centuries before from the remnants of the Roman Empire.)
Ancient Blended with Modern
As in the previous book, this is a taut, fast-moving thriller packed with intrigue and adventure, with Carina donning different disguises and identities with alacrity to thwart would-be overthrowers of the state, which runs along the lines of ancient Roman law and society, but with the advantages of modern technology.
There is an interesting interweaving of ancient and modern, and the storyline of fundamentalists trying to overthrow the government is very relevant today. Here the conflict is between the matriarchal establishment and the patriarchist rebels, each side’s case spelled out, along with shocking details of how the ancient Romans kept women and girls in check.
Part Foreigner, Part Native
Carina is a strong, feisty heroine, made all the more interesting because although she embraces Roma Novan society, she is still part outsider, with the tourist’s take on some of the state’s customs and culture. I love the easy way in which the author weaves ancient and modern together, such as the swearing by Roman gods that is the locals’ preferred vocabulary for when times are tough. Simple details like the clasping of forearms instead of shaking hands are dropped in lightly throughout to remind us just where we are, alongside the alternative technological references (no iPads or tablets here, they are el-pads, for example).
By Juno, It’s Good!
I also loved the Roman names throughout, though it made it harder to keep track of the plot when everyone is called something unfamiliar. Reading this on Kindle, I didn’t spot the cast list until the end, and would have benefited from it. Though that’s my fault not the author’s. I’m very bad at following thriller plots, just don’t have the right kind of brain – I’ve never really got to grips with a James Bond film yet! Nor is it a sign of weakness in the writing – the list of characters in the front of my Penguin copy of “War and Peace” was also essential.
A good, pacy read, and I’ll look forward to the next one to see what she gets up to next. I’m also intrigued to find out what become of her children, who put in their first appearance in this book, with a few references to the eldest being strange and silent. We need to be told…
Find out more about Alison Morton’s books and her current work in progress at her author website, www.alison-morton.com.