Reviewed by Colleen Turner

Corruption, honor, war, love, loyalty, power…these topics and many more are tackled in Empress of the Seven Hills, the newest novel of Rome by Kate Quinn. You hear the term “action packed” used to describe many books but this is one of the few times I have actually read a book and thought it fit. Tipping the scales at 500 pages it was hard to put down as the excitement and intrigue just kept going, resulting in a cliff hanger ending that left me seething about having to wait to find out what happens next.

The story is told in alternating narratives between four very compelling characters – Sabina, a much loved senator’s daughter with a determination all her own; Vix, the gruff ex-gladiator returning to Rome to conquer the city that nearly killed him as a child; Titus, a young nobleman from a respected family that is honest and practical and longs for nothing more than an uneventful life; and Plotina, the plotting, nasty wife of Emperor Trajan that will stop at nothing to see her protégé, Hadrian, become Emperor after her husband. Each character has a very distinct voice that helps the reader get into their frame of mind, whether that is a wonderful self-deprecating humor (as with Titus) or a delusional fantasy world (as with Plotina). The one thing that seems to unite all of these characters is their individual determination to have the life and future they want, regardless of what others around them have planned.

Sabina wants nothing more than to be free to travel the world and do what she wishes. She is the daughter of a respected nobleman, however, and therefore is a prime asset on the marriage market. Titus is her youngest suitor and, despite his love for Sabina, they are destined to become nothing more than lifelong friends. Plotina plots to marry Sabina to Hadrian, her cold and calculating favorite, in the hopes that the love and familial bonds between Sabina and Emperor Trajan will lead to Hadrian being named as the heir to the throne. While Sabina does not love Hadrian, his apparent yearning to see the world makes him seem as good a choice as any and she agrees to his proposal. Vix, a guard in the senator’s home and Sabina’s lover, is angered by the match and decides to launch a career in the military and make a name for himself to rival his past. As their lives advance, twining together and moving apart throughout, they all seem set on the paths they’ve chosen. That is until Emperor Trajan dies and their lives change in an instant. Now all of them with face new challenges and their futures are anything but clear.

I am so excited to see where these characters will be going in the next installment. My favorite character by far was Titus and the new romance he begins to develop towards the end of Empress of the Seven Hills has me itching to read more. Kate Quinn is definitely an author I will be keeping an eye on and I am excited to go back and read her previous two novels, Mistress of Rome and Daughters of Rome.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Check out Kate Quinn’s guest post

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Berkley Trade. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.