Empress of the Seven Hills

Written by Kate Quinn
Review by Ann Pedtke

Kate Quinn returns with a gripping sequel to her bestselling debut Mistress of Rome. After the assassination of Emperor Domitian, Thea and Arius have escaped the city and settled peacefully in Britannia – but Vix, their headstrong son, hasn’t lost the taste for action. Vix journeys back to Rome and finds Sabina, the senator’s daughter who gave him his first childhood kiss, grown into an intelligent and alluring woman. The two begin a passionate affair, but they both know that a future is impossible between a patrician and a plebian. Sabina has many wealthier suitors, including the gentle intellectual Titus Aurelius, and the cunning and ambitious soldier Hadrian. While Vix fantasizes about military glory, Sabina has her sights set on escaping Rome and seeing the world, and her only means to achieve this goal is a strategic marriage. But in choosing ambition over love, Sabina makes choices with unexpected consequences – consequences she must live with for the rest of her life.

As Vix and Sabina pursue their respective ambitions – their paths sometimes converging, sometimes diverging – each makes powerful friends and powerful enemies. While their story is essentially a romance, the backdrop of weighty historical events and fully drawn characters allows this novel to bridge genres. No villain – from the cool and calculating Hadrian to the grasping Empress Plotina – is without a human element, and no hero is without failings. While Quinn tells an affecting love story, she doesn’t allow fairytale idealism to overpower the confines of historical reality. Vix and Sabina must each live with the choices they make. After this book’s somewhat unsettling conclusion, the scene is set for another novel to continue the stories of these complex and engaging characters.