I got my copy of this book a couple of years ago, knowing it was the last one in the series (17th) and haven't read it since, so when I reached into my cupboard to get a notebook the other day and discovered this, I decided to finish my Roman Mysteries era.
*May Contain spoilers if you have not read the other books in this series*Synopsis: September AD 81. Returning from Ephesus to Rome, Flavia and her friends learn of the mysterious and sudden death of the Emperor Titus. Was his death natural? Or was it murder? As the four detectives investigate this mystery, they little dream how much their lives—as well as the future of Italia—will be changed as a result.
Review: By looking at the cover of this book above, you instantly think for younger readers. Much younger. One of those mock-ups of ancient historical times so they can learn that, yes, there were other periods of history before the Tudors or Victorians. However, before you judge, hear me out about this book. I admit, there are parts of the book which are more suited to younger children and the fact that I read this series when I was 8/9 and understood it, shows it maybe aimed at younger children. But I am 16 now and I really enjoyed this book, a lot.
It made just a lovely end to a great series and of me was one of the best of The Roman Mysteries. The Roman Mysteries are such a great series because of the way Caroline Lawrence takes you to the Roman times and lets you experience what it is like to live in that era, the pros and cons. There are such unique characters. The main characters of the stories is Flavia, a bossy but clever girl. She lives with Nubia, who she bought as a slave and freed in the first book. Then, there is Jonathan, her Jewish next door neighbour who sees the worse in everything. And lastly, there is Lupus, who used to be a beggar boy as he was mute after someone cut out his tongue. All these create a lovely set of cast that all have different personalities.
The great thing about this book was it was like a character revival. All the main, good characters from the last books came back at some point in this book, minor and major parts, such as Flaccus, Pulchra, Diana. to name a few. It was nice reunion actually, and helped me remember the events in the last books.
The language is quite simple compared to other books in this genre but it is densely backed with historical Roman mentions like food, treatments, names of places, old names for things - the list continues. As you read throughout the series, you learn some of the words meanings, and there are descriptions sometimes to help you understand what it is. However, the thing that helps the most is Aristo's Scroll at the back with meanings for the words. Aristo is the handsome, Greek tutor for the children in the book - he is one of my favourite characters in it and appears in nearly all of the books. The chapters normally end on some kind of cliffhanger or decision being made.
There were so many surprises and twists in the story in this one, more than the other books. It really keeps you on your toes and makes it much more exciting.
The story begins unusually for the Roman Mysteries with Flavia getting ready for her wedding, three years after the Roman Mysteries was set. However, this is kind of a flash forward and then the story begins when Flavia explains their last mystery. It ends by going back to the wedding where you find out who is it she is getting married to which I must say, all Roman Mysteries fans will approve of, I'm sure. The romance between her and the guy she marries is slightly cheesy in my opinion and may not have been said in those days but it fits. Nubia also gets married within the book at one of the most unexpected moments, I must say, although fans will approve of her husband too.
The mystery is nicely done where the reader always thinks they know, and then they are proven otherwise. There have only been a handful of times where I guessed the culprit before the characters did and in this book, that didn't happen at all. The only part that annoys me is that the mystery wrapped up too easily for me, but that may be just me.
The only downside to these books is Jonathan. I do not like him at all, he gets on my nerves a lot. In this book, I think I enjoyed it more because he wasn't in it until nearer the end and I preferred the conversation of the other three together more than him. This is probably just my opinion but for me, he's too negative and grumbly.
This is lovely historical book with lots of unique, exciting things to read about with some amazing characters that I have got to know over the last seven years, it is sad to see the end of the series, even with some loose ends still there, although I think I can guess the outcome. I hope they do crop up in other books like Lawrence says in the Author's Note. This is a great end to a great series of books and makes me love the fact I am doing Classical Civilisation in September even more - this book makes me want to revisit the old books in the series.
Verdict: A lovely end - but read the rest of the books first.
I give it a 5 out of 5
Author's Website: http://www.romanmysteries.com/
Challenges: Historical Fiction Challenge
There was a TV adaptation of these in England for CBBC which was alright.