At eight years old, Lucia is torn from the life she knew. Her village burned to the ground and parents murdered by Romans, she is kidnapped, sold and shipped abroad to the Villa Tempestatis in Britannia to serve the young Roman army officer Castus.Faced with a bleak future of decades of servitude to her master, as well as sadistic brutality at the hands of his manageress, Paltucca, she finds herself fixated by one thought alone: vengeance.
Yet Villa Tempestatis, with its picturesque surroundings in Britannia’s green countryside, offers a life that’s a little easier than elsewhere in the Roman empire. The slaves form strong bonds of love and friendship, enjoy feasts and holiday celebrations together, and are even allowed, sometimes, to start a family. Many of them are happy enough with their lot.Despite that, every moment of Lucia’s life is blighted by her hatred for Castus and Paltucca, and only seeing them both destroyed will bring her a measure of peace, even if it takes decades of work and planning…
This standalone novel from the bestselling author of The Druid tells the tale of one woman’s life against a richly woven backdrop of love and hate, revenge and redemption, and is quite unique in modern fiction.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. Whenever we hear of the Roman Empire and all its pride, glory, and massive influence on the modern world, there are a few different thoughts that pop into our heads. Emperors, colosseum, gladiators, senate, and the legions of soldiers that the Romans had at its disposal. The stories we don’t hear about are the thousands of victims and slaves the Romans conquered and forced into servitude to obey the wills of their masters. Lucia is such a slave at the peak of the Roman Empire and her story is about love, sacrifice, and vengeance against the barbarians that have enslaved her, years in the making. Lucia is a standalone alternative history story that will bring you back to ancient times and is written with precision as if Steven McKay were painting the Mona Lisa.
Lucia takes place between 168 AD and 201 AD where the Romans have invaded Germania and burned the land to the ground. Lucia’s village is sacked, pillaged, and she is kidnapped by the Romans while her parents are butchered and left for dead. She is shipped off to Villa Tempestatis in Britannia to serve the young Roman army officer Castus. Lucia will learn the ways to manage and maintain a Roman villa while also staying on the good side of the manageress Paltucca. Lucia will find love in the Villa with her loyal friend Sennianus and will look to build a life together. Eventually a horrible tragedy will befall Lucia and she will vow vengeance of the Villa even if she has to bid her time to do it.
Having studied Roman history at university, I always find myself flocking to textbooks and documentaries on ancient civilizations and how they have shaped our society today. What I didn’t expect to see was the other side of the coin and how the conquered struggled to survive centuries ago. I also learned quite a few facts about Roman history that I never knew before. Roman Villa’s would bring in slaves from several different countries whom don’t speak the local language in order to avoid insurrections. Steven also goes into very fine details regarding the daily chores of the Lucia and her co-workers as well as the horrible fates that befall the slaves when male guests would enter the villa. There is rape in this book but it is not just thrown into the story for the sake of shock value, rather to show the dread of that time and to build sympathy and empathy for the victims.
Steven A. McKay certainly did his homework in writing Lucia and it will make you question everything you have learned in school about the Roman Empire. The stories climax involves one of the best twists to a story I have every read and it took the story in a completely different direction than what I was anticipating. You will be on your toes in the buildup to it. I had a great time revisiting an ancient world written from a different perspective. Fans of alternative history, Roman history, and revenge tales will find enjoyment in Lucia. People say that history is always written by the victors and the virtuous, but for those whose voices have not been heard throughout the centuries, this is a story for you.