Review: Lady of the Eternal City by Kate Quinn

Thursday, April 9, 2015
Title: Lady of the Eternal City
Author: Kate Quinn
Genre: historical fiction
Series: The Empress of Rome #4
Pages: 512
Published: March 2015
Source: received for review from the author
Rating: 5/5

National bestselling author Kate Quinn returns with the long-awaited fourth volume in the Empress of Rome series, an unforgettable new tale of the politics, power, and passion that defined ancient Rome.

Elegant, secretive Sabina may be Empress of Rome, but she still stands poised on a knife’s edge. She must keep the peace between two deadly enemies: her husband Hadrian, Rome’s brilliant and sinister Emperor; and battered warrior Vix, who is her first love. But Sabina is guardian of a deadly secret: Vix’s beautiful son Antinous has become the Emperor’s latest obsession.

Empress and Emperor, father and son will spin in a deadly dance of passion, betrayal, conspiracy, and war. As tragedy sends Hadrian spiraling into madness, Vix and Sabina form a last desperate pact to save the Empire. But ultimately, the fate of Rome lies with an untried girl, a spirited redhead who may just be the next Lady of the Eternal City . . .

It's taken four novels and thousands and pages to build Kate Quinn's sprawling and epic Empress of Rome historical fiction series. I've spent dozens of hours with these characters in various times of their lives; from children to adults, I watched Thea and Arrius, then Sabina and Vix grow and mature into their stories. They, and the city of Rome around them, all feel so real to me because of the depth and care woven into every facet of the last novel, Lady of the Eternal City. What Mistress of Rome began, and Daughters of Rome strengthened and Empress of the Seven Hills expanded, Lady of the Eternal City ably completes.

This series set in ancient Roman eras is over and none of those final five hundred pages are wasted in finishing off this grand tale that manages to span generations, continents, and empires. It's a big book, and while it's not a constant battle or a war or even a horse race, it flows and moves along well. In Kate Quinn's hands, Emperor Hadrian's twenty years of peace are as fascinating to read about as were Trajan's battles back in the beginning of book three, Empress of the Seven Hills. Politics are always a main theme and plot in these books and Quinn uses more of her sly writing to create plotlines that work exceedingly well both as narrative and as a substitute for real history. 

Quinn's characters here shine, as they always do. Both the returning favorites (like Vix, Vibia Sabina) and the newer additions and newcomers (Antinous, Hadrian, Annia, Marcus) all are well-rendered and vividly characterized effectively and hadnily. I genuinely cared about this book because of how invested I had become in these flawed and imperfect, wonderful characters. Sabina, with her life of free constraint, Vix and his blue-eyed women, Annia and her willfullness... they were all so alive on the page, and the author has a penchant for unexpecte emotional whiplash. Kate Quinn's cast is truly remarkable for its size and for the fact that they are all so distinct and recognizable.

Lady of the Eternal City is a worthy, gripping conclusion to a series that has only strengthened as it continued with each new novel. Kate Quinn's clear knowledge of fact combined with her talent for plausible fiction make for some of the historical fiction has to offer. The enveloping and authentic atmosphere, Rome with some of the strongest place-as-character that I have ever read...her version of Rome is inescapable, alluring, and vivid. For four novels she has led her characters and readers on a merry chase, and here at the end, it was more than worth the thousands and pages and dozens of hours. I would, and will, be visiting her Rome and her characters again soon.

This is how you end a series. I have enjoyed everything I had read before by this author, but Lady of the Eternal City's cleverness, its detail and depth, and unpredictability combined with its emotional core made for not only a fantastic read but a damned good ending.


  1. What a lovely review - so delighted you enjoyed all my books, and LEC in particularly (that one was a problem child!)

  2. This is such a wonderful review Jessie! The characters feel real to me too for the same reasons you mentioned. I feel like I'm IN their world, which makes reading about them amazing but stressful. I care so much about every character and go back and forth about my favorites. You're so right about Rome being a character too. The way the atmosphere and descriptions grip you is incredible and vivid. I'm so excited to read the last book now! I was hoping and hoping for it at the end of Empress of the Seven Hills :) Gosh I love this series.


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