Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Thieves of Ostia

Title: The Thieves of Ostia
Series: The Roman Mysteries
Author: Caroline Lawrence
Published: 2001
Genre: Historical Fiction, Tween/Children
My Rating: 3 out of 5

The first in a wonderfully educative and absorbing series, The Thieves of Ostia creates a setting and introduction of the four main characters: Flavia a Roman freeborn; Nubia, an African slave; Jonathan, a young Jew and Lupus, an orphaned and mute beggar boy. All four are children living in the coastal town of Ostia, in 79 AD.
In this book, Flavia and her friends set out to find out who has been beheading guard dogs, pet dogs and feral dogs in the neighbourhood. The group suspect a man who had recently lost his young daughter to a rabid dog's bite. Could his hate of dogs be motive? But when their first suspect is clear of guilt, then who can be the culprit.

I love the series. I'd read all the books in The Roman Mysteries series apart from the very first book. The narrative is simply and effectively written and graphics at the beginning of the book aid in imagining the children's quest around Ostia.
The book also introduces daily Roman life. The different social casts, religious and cultural attitudes, even the foods and leisures of the Romans are clearly discussed. A word bank at the back of the book also provides more insightful knowledge.
One thing which I didn't like about this title in particular was that its plot development was slower in comparison to its following titles.

I recommend the whole Roman Mysteries series to anyone who is even merely interested in Ancient Rome or Greece. The novels are easily read yet enriching. I've learnt a great deal about Greek/Roman gods, festivals, culture, scholars, poets and society from the series (quite helpful when you're reading Medea as an EngLit text).  The television series based on the series is also fantastic.

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