29 April 2017

RETALIO by Alison Morton

Amazon UK £2.99
Amazon US $3.75
Amazon CA  $23.92

This title was shortlisted for the April Book of the Month

Alternative / Thriller
1980s
Austria and Roma Nova

Roma Nova Series #6

"Early 1980s Vienna. Recovering from a near fatal shooting, Aurelia Mitela, ex-Praetorian and former foreign minister of Roma Nova, chafes at her enforced exile. She barely escaped from her nemesis, the charming and amoral Caius Tellus who grabbed power in Roma Nova, the only part of the Roman Empire to survive into the twentieth century.
Aurelia’s duty and passion fire her determination to take back her homeland and liberate its people. But Caius’s manipulations have isolated her from her fellow exiles, leaving her proscribed, powerless and vulnerable. But without their trust and support Aurelia knows she will never see Roma Nova again."

So you thought that the Roman Empire gradually dissolved over 1500 years ago? Not according to Alison Morton; her series of Roma Nova thrillers - already highly acclaimed - suggest that Rome remains as a small independent country somewhere in central Europe.

And, boy, is this believable! She has mapped out its history throughout the series and we read about people whose names seem to come straight out of Shakespeare. They even blaspheme in the names of the ‘old’ gods and hold celebrations at Saturnalia.

The question is really about whether the scenario is authentic and the answer is a resounding 'Yes'! The lives of the characters blend seamlessly with those of the traditional world as we know it – although there has been some slight adjustment to 'New' Europe and the United States.

In this, the sixth tale in the series, Aurelia Mitela is recovering in exile in Vienna and plotting with other exiles to overthrow the new and illegal regime in Roma Nova, led by the beautifully evil Caius Tellus. We follow her and her allies as they organise plans and strategies and everything is logical and well thought out. Aurelia’s mission is also not an overnight process, a trap which many authors might fall into.

In most cases, starting so late in a series may mean that the reader can get confused, or feel that they have missed something in previous volumes, but Ms Morton avoids that trap too, giving us enough information as we go along making it very possible to treat this as a stand alone book – although, as ever, it is always useful to have read the previous stories… which I will promptly set out to do because this really is an unmissable ongoing adventure!

A fantastic concept, skilfully written, utterly believable and one of my favourite books of the year.

 © Richard Tearle
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