The year is 84 CE, the place is the Roman province of Britannia. The rebellion of Boudicca is within living memory for many adults.
Twelve year old Livia, daughter of an eye doctor, is now an orphan. She has promised her dying father to take a mysterious key to her uncle Marcus, who was estranged from her father, but will know what to do with it. Livia has nothing now but her old horse Pegasus, her father’s doctoring kit, which she knows how to use - and the key. When her uncle is not at home, she travels further, to the home of someone who might know where Marcus is. Her uncle is not there either, and she is advised to go back to his home, but a British slave boy, Mato, offers to help her if she will take him with her. There is more to this story than Livia had believed. She and her new friend will have to solve the mystery before disaster strikes.
Here is another one of the talented Sophie Masson’s exciting historical adventures. Many of them have fantasy elements but this is a straight historical mystery, well researched and with a useful historical background and glossary at the back.
The cover art and internals, including a map, are drawn by Lorena Carrington, a gifted Aussie artist who has worked with Sophie Masson before.
Livia is a strong leading character who refuses to give up, even when the quest for her uncle looks as if it might be useless. She weaves together the clues to lead her in the right direction.
This novel, aimed at ages about nine to twelve, reads like a Rosemary Sutcliff adventure, perfect for young readers who enjoy history and are inspired by strong characters their own age. It’s also not a bad place to start children on historical fiction.
Christmas Press, of which Eagle Books is an imprint, is an Australian small press which has been doing very well. For now, though, The Key To Rome will only be available in Australia. Dymock’s Bookshop already has copies, as does Amazon Australia, but it’s just as simple to ask your bookshop to get it in.
If you haven’t yet discovered Sophie Masson’s wonderful work, you can get it outside Australia in the usual good websites.
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