September 27, 2013

Book Review–City On Fire by Tracy L. Higley


As Vesuvius churns, a slave girl-turned-gladiator joins forces with an unlikely source to seek justice.

In the coastal town of Pompeii, a new gladiator prepares to fight. But this gladiator hides a deadly secret: she’s a runaway Jewish slave girl named Ariella, disguised as a young boy. A savvy fighter, Ariella determines to triumph in the arena, knowing her life will be forfeit should anyone uncover the truth.

Cato, a wealthy politician, moved to Pompeii after tiring of the corruption in Rome. But he soon learns that Pompeii is just as corrupt, and if he doesn’t play the game, his family could pay the price. Determined to bring about justice for the citizens of Pompeii, Cato searches for allies. But what he discovers instead is a confounding group of Christians . . . and a young female gladiator whose fame is growing daily.

Political unrest reaches a boiling point as Christians are jailed and executed, and the mountain in the distance threatens to destroy the city with its river of fire. Cato and Ariella must act quickly and courageously to save their loved ones before all is lost.

What first caught my interest in City On Fire was the gladiator storyline. Since I’m drawing a lot of inspiration from ancient Rome and have gladiators in my latest series, I jumped at the chance to read and review this book for both enjoyment and research. I’ve also never read any historical fiction set this far back. What I didn’t expect was just how much I would enjoy it. This is the first I’ve read of any of Tracy L. Higley’s books, and she has a fantastic way of drawing you right into the setting and situations. I really felt like I was in Pompeii. A few areas of description felt a bit long, but overall, the details were perfect and vivid. I also loved the characters. Now, I’ll admit, I didn’t love Ariella in the beginning, but that’s typical for me. The male characters are usually much more interesting. But she did really grow on me in the last bit of the book. Speaking of male characters, I loved Cato. Like, really loved Cato. I thought he was superbly written, and I could feel all his emotions so well.

A word of caution, while Higley does not go into extreme detail, she doesn’t shy away from how corrupt and openly depraved Roman society was. I had no trouble reading it. I thought she was very tactful, but more sensitive readers might have a problem. Definitely for mature readers.

I give City On Fire five stars. It was one of those books I would reluctantly put down and be back five minutes later to read again. I highly recommend it for someone looking for an immersive and exciting historical read.

I received this book free from BookSneeze® in exchange for my honest review.


Psalms w guitar said...

Did the book go into any detail as far as how the Christian persecution played out?In other words, did it explore the what were the issues that could get you killed?

Jack said...

I can never find good books set in that time period. They are either too dull and detailed or all about people dying. I am going to have to find this one, because I would be interested in reading more set during that time. (And if it has a lovable boy character it is worth a try 8-D)

Molly Evangeline said...

@Psalms w guitar - There was a little about the Christian persecution. It was mentioned that some Christians were killed in the arena before one of the gladiator fights, and later on some arrests were made, but the book centered more on the political corruption in Pompeii.

@Jack - There was definitely a lot of detail, but I didn't find it dull. There were quite a few deaths near the end just because it is Pompeii, after all (out of about 20,000 inhabitants, only about 2,000 escaped the city when Vesuvius erupted), but the whole story I thought was fascinating. And yes, very loveable boy character, in my opinion. :D