This volume picks up where Volume 1 left off. Thea and her husband are living in Scotland, raising a second family, while their eldest son 18-year-old Vix (short for Vercingetorix) joins the legions. Vix catches the notice of the Emperor Trajan, as he expands the empire into Dacia (present-day Romania) and Parthia (Iran), and so Vix quickly climbs through the ranks becoming centurion and having his own legion to command. He also acquires a wife and two daughters, plus an older boy as his ward. In short, everything is going swimmingly…until one day Emperor Trajan suddenly dies.
Trajan’s widow, Plotina, has been scheming for years to get her protégé Hadrian (whom she refers to as “dear Publius”) appointed his successor, and she succeeds. Trajan’s death is also very convenient as it saves Empress Plotina from having to answer questions about money laundering, siphoning off funds meant for building project and charities, so that she can fund her campaign to make Hadrian Emperor.
However, Hadrian’s wife Vibia Sabina loathes Empress Plotina, and now that she is the new empress of Rome, it will be interesting to see what happens.
One of the great strengths of Kate Quinn’s writing is her world-building: she really immerses you in every detail of what it was like to be alive in the Roman Empire between 102 and 117 CE. Five stars.