by Kathryn Amurra
Set in Ancient Rome, Admonition introduces the reader to Sabina, a noblewoman grieving for her murdered husband, Felix. Believing herself to have unwittingly been the cause of Felix’s death due to her unguarded remarks, she has taken a vow of silence and is shunned by everyone outside her close family, who believe her to be cursed by the gods. That is until she meets Lucius, who is intrigued by the beautiful, silent Sabina and longs to hear her speak…
Admonition is the second in the Soothsayer series but ably functions as a standalone read and is absolutely first-class. I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book, Soothsayer* but with Admonition, Ms Amurra has really developed as a writer. Everything about the novel is pitched perfectly. The story has just the correct amount of intrigue, twist and romance, completely maintaining credibility and holding reader interest. Little details link back to one another from across the narrative strands, such as the Decebalus coin given to Sabina by Felix.
There has been a considered amount of careful thought given to the structure of the plot and its side-angles to ensure it reads seamlessly and maintains focus. It was a simple yet clever idea to begin the story at the Governor’s wedding feast where we leave the first book; it provided quick familiarity for those who’ve read Soothsayer but seemed a perfectly logical beginning for those who have not.
There is something incredibly comfortable about Ms Amurra’s writing, it has a light, gentle quality that flows effortlessly and is both engrossing and endearing to read. As with the plot construction, the prose is deceptively accomplished to achieve its easy readability. As a pedantic reviewer (!), it made my day to see the correct usage of the different words, discreet and discrete, which is rarely seen.
The characters are nicely layered and evolve believably. Sabina could have been one-dimensional due to the lack of speech but subtle weight is given to her movements and expressions to ensure she comes alive in the reader’s mind. You have a clear sense of the gravity of her situation and the effect it has on her from the very beginning. Lucius was nicely reassuring and the scene with the little girl, Mariana, although brief was a thoughtful touch that enhanced his personality. Priscilla was brilliantly utilised to drive the narrative on; she could have become a little tiresome but Ms Amurra deftly judges when to limit her immaturity. Thaddeus and Cyprian were both sinister and unpleasant in their own ways, without becoming caricatures, and I loved the nod to Thaddeus’s intentions with his surname.
Admonition is primarily a work of historical fiction and in the realisation of Ancient Rome Ms Amurra excels, providing an excellent reconstruction of the age that completely immerses the reader. There are so many understated, simple period details that build layer after layer of authenticity but again, it’s written with a level of clever restraint which enables the reader to inhabit Ancient Rome and move alongside the characters rather than be bombarded with superfluous fact.
Admonition is a beautifully crafted and absorbing novel by a gifted historical fiction writer. Highly recommended.
*Read my review of Soothsayer here