I love historical fiction so I owe enormous thanks to Matt Casbourne at Duckworth Books for a copy of Rivals of the Republic by Annelise Freisenbruch in return for an honest review.
Rivals of the The Republic
Using her supreme knowledge of the period, author Annelise Freisenbruch presents the great new heroine of historical fiction, Hortensia, who must navigate the male-dominated courts of law in her quest to uncover a sinister plot to overthrow the Republic.
Drawing from historical accounts of the daughter of famed Roman orator Quintus Hortensius Hortalus, Freisenbruch delivers an atmospheric, meticulously accurate and fast-paced story that will have readers craving more.
Rome, 70BC. Roman high society hums with gossip about the suspicious suicide of a prominent Roman senator and the body of a Vestal Virgin is discovered in the river Tiber. As the authorities turn a blind eye, Hortensia is moved to investigate a trail of murders that appear to lead straight to the dark heart of the Eternal City.
My Review of Rivals of the Republic
I love all things Roman. I have been on a dig, visited Roman sites and I collect Roman coins, so I had high expectations of Rivals of the Republic and I’m delighted that Annelise Freisenbruch met and exceeded every single one.
I have to admit that my heart sank when I saw the Dramatis Personae at the beginning as I thought my reading would be constantly interrupted whilst I had to keep checking who was who. Not a bit of it! The writing was so good and so effective that I didn’t need it at all because Annelise Freisenbruch has the ability to weave in character and plot smoothly and effortlessly.
Aside from the excellent descriptions that truly place the reader in 70 BC Rome, the general tone and style are just perfect, with a formality that underpins the era wonderfully. I genuinely felt as if I were transported back in time and I found Annelise Freisenbruch’s setting so visual it was as if I were watching a film as well as reading a story.
I found the plot absolutely fascinating. It writhes along so that the reader doesn’t know what to expect next, even when they are aware of historical factual background. The political machinations of Rome flood the text with excitement and tension making for a highly exciting read. The Rivals would make a fabulous television series and I could visualise every element.
The characters created are three dimensional and realistic. Hortensia is a triumph. Her feminist approach to the patriarchal Roman society adds an extra layer of tension and detail that I loved. The quality of research that supports the narrative to bring alive both real and imagined people is outstanding. I am thrilled that The Rivals is the first in a proposed series as I’m desperate to read more about Hortensia and, if I’m honest, I’m a little bit in love with Lucrio and I definitely want to see more of him.
Regardless of whether the reader prefers history or thrillers, The Rivals is a novel of outstanding writing, exquisite research and fabulous storytelling such that all readers can enjoy reading it. I absolutely loved it.
About Annelise Freisenbruch
Annelise Freisenbruch received her PhD in Classics from Cambridge University. She has worked as a researcher for the BBC and has appeared in documentaries about ancient Rome for PBS and CNN. Her first book, The First Ladies of Rome: The Women Behind the Caesars was published in the US and the UK to critical acclaim and has been translated into eight languages. Rivals of the Republic is her first novel.