Monday, August 08, 2011
T.L.Higley's Pompeii ~ Reviewed
By T.L. Higley
Published by B & H
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.
I’d never read anything by T.L. Higley or about Pompeii before, so I was thrilled to receive a review copy of such a compelling and fascinating story. The author quickly thrusts the reader into the streets of Pompeii and introduces Ariella, a young Jewish girl running for her life.
I’m not a history buff by any means but I found myself captivated by a time in history where providing for your daily needs was a challenge, where people were bought and sold and women were men’s playthings or worse. It was a time when Roman society had become so numb to the special things in life. They could only feel the excitement of killing and the thrill of sex (not love my any means- for themselves or each other). Even their common criminals were sentenced to the arena simply to fill the demand for the sight of blood, and death! The crowd demanded more cruelty! More novelty- nothing satisfied them.
T.L. Highley takes the reader to June A.D. 79 here a gladiator troupe tries to provide entertainment in the arena. Ariella had a secret that was getting harder and harder to hide from the gladiators. Quinto Portius Cato just moved to Pompeii fleeing Rome and his political misfortune. All he wanted to do was grow a vineyard and sell the best wine in the land.
The people in Pompeii had other plans for Cato once they heard of his political experience. They wanted him to run against Maius, ruler of the land, in the next election. Maius was a corrupted political leader who controlled the town and its people. People in Pompeii wanted their freedom and felt Cato could give that to them.
Cato didn’t want any part of their plans until Maius went after him and his family and then it became personal. Soon it became an intense chess match between the two political candidates! Each set on winning the game. It sure wasn’t pretty.
Quinto Portius Cato marveled at Christians and their willingness to die for what they believed in. Cato ached for something so powerful, so important, something to live for – he felt empty!”
Ariella was a fighter too in more ways than one. She had fled Varerius in Jerusalem August 9th AD 70. She’d watched her family killed before her very eyes. She’d found a way of escape being a slave, there was no way she’d go back to that kind of life, not if she could help it. When Ariella got to Pompeii, evil crawled in the shadows and in the streets. She saw the political corruption, religious persecution and she wanted no part of it. She met a Christian man named Jeremiah, who told her, “Do not let them conquer your spirit child. The evil one toils to keep these people oppressed, obsessed with violence and lust. Do not let them pull you into the gutter – Evil has a way of multiplying! Watch out!” Ariella listened to this timely message.
T.L. Higley thrusts the reader back in time and has them experience fighting in the arena and how Gladiators train! I was awestruck and mesmerized by the horrific things that happened for entertainment purposes only. The author wrote scenes so vibrantly it seemed like a 3-D movie – with the action and drama seemingly leaping off the page. I felt as If I was there. It was amazing and horrendous all at the same time. I found myself holding my breath as I read about the fights and awaited the outcome. If I wasn’t reading I would have put my hand over my eyes!
The author wrote about the arena from the gladiators’ point of view and all they were thinking, feeling and seeing! Then she would in the next scene show the reader the arena from a character sitting in the audience! It was interesting to read what they saw out in the audience after reading what the gladiator had just experienced the scene before. What the audience sees is sometimes very different then what was actually happening in the arena.
T.L. Higley is an amazing writer, deep thinker and has a way of grabbing her readers attention, heart and scope of this time period that doesn’t sound so far from what we are living today. I loved how she brought history and this time period to life. I also enjoyed the way the author showed how Christians met in secret and how they enjoyed each in the Lord at their meetings. This was a book I couldn’t stop reading and one you won’t want to miss! I highly recommend it!
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network