by Kathryn Amurra
Eighteen-year-old Nerilla is assured of a marriage of status and wealth with her betrothed, Regulus, chosen from the patrician class. Does it matter that he is only marrying for her dowry – the legendary sword Ceres?
But, when Nerilla witnesses the sword being stolen by a charming thief, Jovian, it sets in motion a journey of revelation and self-recognition for both characters that only the Soothsayer could have predicted…
Here we are again in Ancient Rome and I love this series. Understated brilliance. With each book* in the Soothsayer canon, Amurra just gets better and they were excellent to begin with.
The historical setting of Ancient Rome, is once again, meticulously researched and realized. Amurra appears to inhabit the period, writing from within it rather than about it. She provides an excellent reconstruction of a fascinating historical age that is completely immersive, absorbing, and supremely interesting.
Birthright is a quietly confident and accomplished novel that gives the reader exactly what they want but with a few convincing and complementary twists. Amurra ensures strands of intriguing sub-plot softly weave around Nerilla and Jovian, ultimately feeding into the main narrative.
Indeed, just after halfway, we have two big reveals concerning them both, which, although hinted at, were kept obscure enough up until this point to ensure reader curiosity.
There is a soothing, reassuring quality to Amurra’s novels and her prose is delicately precise and elegant, making the words glide effortlessly across the page. Consequently, I found Birthright difficult to put down.
The book contains nuanced elements of mystery, thriller, and family drama but it is the growing romance between Nerilla and Jovian that is forefront. The chemistry between them, especially during their voyage to Portus, is gently electric, emotionally charged, and written with credibility and charm.
Nerilla is well-depicted; beguiling and naïve in equal parts yet with a single-minded maturity that evolves convincingly as she and Jovian travel together.
Jovian is nicely observed, he could have been a fairly stock character and that would have worked, but Amurra invests in him, giving the reader is given a clear sense of his appeal and impish spirit but also the insecurity he tries to hide.
The lesser characters are as developed as they need to be, never overshadowing and I especially liked Quintus, Nerilla’s father.
Nonetheless, always hovering in the background is the Soothsayer, Tullia. She sprinkles the story with a light dusting of myth, magic, and wicked insight dressed up in her customary clever riddles, that are neatly ambiguous to both cast and reader until the very end when they make perfect sense.
In the conclusion, there is one plot aspect that I was hoping would be resolved differently, but that’s personal preference and the ending Amurra gives the reader concerning this element, is interestingly unexpected and reinforces the quiet dignity and compassion of Nerilla and Jovian, which is a theme throughout Birthright. Highly recommended.
*Click here for my review of Soothsayer (Soothsayer’s Path Book 1)
*Click here for my review of Admonition (Soothsayer’s Path Book 2)