Call to Juno: Tales of Ancient Rome, Book 3
Fourth century BC. In the wealthy and proud Etruscan city of Veii, Vel Mastarna becomes ruler and attempts to break the Roman siege of his citadel. His Roman-born wife, Caecilia, now thoroughly acclimated to life in her adopted city and deeply in love with Vel, struggles to maintain morale while her husband is off campaigning. She wrestles with famine and plague in the beleaguered city. Her servant, Semni, tries to regain her mistress’s trust and strives for her own happiness while, in the Roman camp, the concubine Pinna seeks security and love amidst the storm of Roman politics. Marcus, Caecilia’s cousin, fears betrayal. Told from the points of view of these four characters, Call to Juno recounts the story of the final struggle between Veii and Rome, separated by only twelve miles geographically but in other respects worlds apart.
Elisabeth Storrs does a fantastic job in this book, bringing the ancient spiritual beliefs and emotional lives of her characters sharply into focus. The author gives plenty of background information in this third volume. It could be read as a standalone, but readers might have a richer experience if they read the entire trilogy in order. That would be no hardship, as Storrs writes beautifully about this distant time period. I had previously read the first book in the trilogy, and that helped in my understanding of this book. Her characters seem true to their time, strongly rooted in the mores of their respective cultures as they strive to placate the gods and gain victory. The contrast between the colorful, sensual culture of the Etruscans and the more severe Roman society is well portrayed, immersing readers in this ancient struggle. Recommended.