Pompeii: City on Fire is a well-written, fast-paced Christian historical novel that contained some romance. It's set mainly in Pompeii in 76 AD. I suspect that both men and women would enjoy the story. The author expertly used historical details to completely immerse the reader in the culture, setting, and time period without slowing the fast pacing. I was left feeling like this was the true story of the dead people you see--as plaster casts--when visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum. (Yes, I've been to both and seen the houses, shops, and other places mentioned in this novel. That gave a haunting quality to the story for me.)
The characters were complex and realistic, and I cared about what happened to them. While Ariella had every reason to be skeptical of Cato's motives, I found her initial complete skepticism a little puzzling since she knew that he'd helped her in the past without expecting favors in return. I think it would have helped me if, in the first chapter set in Rome (instead of near the end of the book), the author had given a bit more information about what Ariella's former master had done to her. Then we'd know from the start that she had a really good reason to run away to a life of danger as a gladiator and to expect bad treatment from any male Roman.
The suspense was high throughout and was mainly created by the looming possibility of physical harm to Ariella and Cato. However, it was hard to feel high suspense about the goals they're striving so hard to achieve since we know Mt. Vesuvius is about to destroy everything they've so staked their future on. I liked how this was handled, but it did leave the suspense a little lower than it otherwise would have been.
The Christian content was woven into plot. Several Christian characters, who lived very differently from those around them, kept catching the eye of Cato--a pagan Roman--and Ariella--a "God let harm come to me, so I refuse to deal with Him" Jew. There were conversions to Christianity, but this element flowed as a natural part of the story. I received an Advanced Reader Copy, so perhaps this will be changed by the final product, but I found the characterization of Mt. Vesuvius as a sort of avenging nature goddess odd for a Christian novel. I would have liked it better if the mountain was not personified.
There were no sex scenes (though forced sex was vaguely referred to) or bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this novel as very well-written, exciting historical.
I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from the author for review purposes.
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About the reviewer
Debbie White (GenreReviewer)
I review books, do organic gardening (vegetables, fruit trees, etc.), mentor a young lady, and work with inmates at the local jail and state prison units. I live in a passive solar house (with an active … more
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Pompeii, a city that's many things to many people. For Cato, it's the perfect escape from a failed political career in Rome. A place to start again, become a winemaker. But when a corrupt politician wrongfully jails Cato's sister, he must oust the man from power to save her.
For Ariella, Pompeii is a means to an end. As a young Jew, she escaped the fall of Jerusalem only to endure slavery to a cruel Roman general. She ends up in Pompeii, disguised as a young man and sold into a gladiator troupe. Her anger fuels her to fight well, hoping to win the arena crowds and reveal her gender at the perfect time. Perhaps then she will win true freedom.
But evil creeps through the streets of Pompeii. Political corruption, religious persecution, and family peril threaten to destroy Ariella and Cato, who are thrown together in the battle to survive. As Vesuvius churns with deadly intent, the two must bridge their differences to save the lives of those they love, before the fiery ash buries Pompeii, leaving the city lost to the world.