Wednesday, September 25, 2013

City on Fire: A Novel of Pompeii By Tracy L. Higley Book Review

17586440// City on Fire //
A Novel of Pompeii
By Tracy L. Higley
{Review By Bethany}
Title: City on Fire: A Novel of Pompeii
Author: Tracy L. Higley
Source: BookSneeze Blogger Review Program
Number of Pages: 400
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers
Publication Date: September 17th, 2013
Age Recommendation: 16+ years old
Bethany's Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
// Book Synopsis //
"A Jewish slave girl fights for her life in first-century Pompeii on the eve of the city’s destruction.
Wealthy Roman patrician Cato came to the seaside town of Pompeii to build a new business, but hostility and outright corruption threaten his carefully laid plans and ignite his desire for social justice. Meanwhile, Ariella, an escaped Jewish slave girl, comes to town with a gladiator troupe. Disguised as a young boy, Ariella’s only ambition is survival.

Ariella and Cato face political intrigue, religious persecution, and family peril even as the ominous mountain in the distance begins to spew its fire. They must bridge their differences to save the lives of those they love before fiery ash buries Pompeii, turning the city into a lost world."

// Bethany's Book Review //

 So, let's be honestly realistic here. It's no secret that the long forgotten city of Pompeii wasn't, well, the most moral of cities (!) In fact, usually whenever the topic is brought up concerning this city, horribly immoral stories are told of the ways of the Pompeian's, complete with descriptions of the utterly depraved practices of the city. So obviously, when first learning of a novel based on the vile city of Pompeii, the first thing to come to mind would be a deep concern for the appropriate level of historical facts about this extremely immoral city. At least, that's what first popped into my mind! And to be completely honest, it nearly turned me one hundred percent off to this novel instantly, before even really looking it over, just based off the place it is set in. But, after reading helpful reviews of the book written by my fellow book friends on Good Reads, (A big thanks to you ladies!) I decided to step out and take the risk and request to review this book. And let me just say I'm so very glad that I did! Otherwise I'd have sorely missed out on one of my favorite reads of 2013, as well as the newfound discovery of a new favorite author!
To start, I just want to say that this book exceeded my expectations in a far greater way than I could even have imagined. Once I finished it, I was just blow away with how well written the story was, as well as all the historical details and spiritual values in it. The character development in this novel was phenomenal as there is so much growth between the characters as the story progresses. I really enjoyed getting the opportunity to read about the characters, and it made me feel like I was there in Pompeii at times.
Another thing that blew me away with this story is all the historical facts and details that left me with a much greater understanding of Pompeii than before I opened the pages of this book. It's clear just how much time Tracy spent in researching the culture, and lifestyles of the Pompeian's; and at the end of the book I really enjoyed reading about all the additional facts about Pompeii as well as learning which characters really were real Pompeian's.
However, the biggest con for me with this story was how even though there was a strong immoral thread, the author also wove a thick Christian strand into the story and gave the storyline a strong Christian influence. Unlike other novels written on Pompeii from a atheistic author point of view, I found it refreshing to find a book that while plainly stated the vileness of Pompeii, it was from a Christian point of view and kept details to a minimum; as it promoted the Christian values versus the Pompeian values. While there were a lot of times when the ways of the Pompeian's were clearly stated, it wasn't exaggerated, or glorified. It was just told as is, without detail. I loved how Tracy incorporated the life's of the early Christians into the novel to compare to the Pompeian's. It was an interesting contrast and one that got me to thinking about the lives of the early Christians and the difficulty their faith brought to their life.
Another thing I loved about this book was the way it opened my eyes to the life lesson of living each day as if it where your last. When reading this book, I would always be reminded that seemingly big circumstances to the characters were actually not as big when put in light of the fact that the city was in it's last days, and really made me see the characters differently.
Now while this is in my opinion a phenomenal historical fiction novel, there are a couple mature reader scenes/content that I feel must be mentioned. And it should also be noted that this is by no means a book that is appropriate for every age level. Though I will state that the author deals with it very well. While she doesn't leave out details or take away from the historical accurateness of the city by glossing over their culture - all be it an extremely nasty one - she states things plainly but without detail or extravagance. The mature reader content in this novel included violence in scenes in the gladiatorial events, public persecution of Christians, vileness of masters when mistreating their servants, as well as the obviously painful deaths of Pompeian's when Mount Vesuvius erupted. As well as topics concerning brothels, and discreet mentions of the evils so prevalent to that time period which were performed out in the open, especially the numerous gods of the people and their forms of worship in temples. While the topic came up more times than I'd have cared for, I'll say it was dealt with in the discreet way possible given the setting. Another thing to be noted was the vile gay views for most Pompeian's who were passionate about this view which so clearly goes against Christian values. So I would strongly urge that for younger readers, before reading this book to think through the cons as well as discuss them with your parents before venturing into this story.
In all, though there are a few cons to this story, all of them being the mature content, I'd say that the historical benefit and the wonderfully written story line makes it worth it and a book to long stay in ones mind. I eagerly await the publication of future Tracy Higley novels and am so glad I ended up reading this book as I feel like I've benefited from it greatly!!
N O T E :: I'd like to sincerely thank Thomas Nelson publishers of for the opportunity to review this book. I was not paid to write this review, and all thoughts expressed are my own, completely honest and unbiased.

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