Tuesday, 15 March 2011

REVIEW: Vestal Virgin by Suzanne Tyrpak + GIVEAWAY

Quick Note: The Giveaway won't be starting until Friday so keep your eyes open for that!!!

This book was sent to me by Suzanne and I immediately wanted to read it because I have studied Latin and the Roman Culture for a couple of years. I was always fascinated by the Vestal Virgins and their extraordinary position in society. The story centers around Elissa, who was taken from her family at a young age to become a Vestal Virgin. She lives during the reign of Nero and I think everyone who knows something about the Roman Empire also knows this Emperor was known to be a bit eccentric.

I figured that before I start my review I'll have to explain some things about the Roman Empire etc. because otherwise my review wouldn't make any sense. Vestal Virgins were very different from other women in Ancient Rome. They took a vow of chastity and were allowed to posses land and money, which was unussual on those times. This vow lasted for 30 years, after this you were free to marry. Yet nobody would marry a women around her 40's in that time so they usually stayed. They were in charge of the Fire of Vesta and looked after the wills of the emperors. They were very close to the Emperor in his religious function as the Pontifex Maximus. In Elissa's case, unfortunatly for her, this was Nero. Nero is known for his wild feasts and his terrible singing and acting performances that his nobles had to visit to stay in his good graces. In his reign the big fire (AD 64) consuming large parts of Rome happened which was blamed on the Christians, followed by the first big persecution of Christians, although many suspected Nero lit the fire to gain inspiration for a new song.
Now you know this I can start with the review. All the different themes mentioned above (Nero's craziness, the Vestal's holiness, the Great Fire and Christianity) are all in the novel. Tyrpak has been able to mix all of them up into an upbeat story that gives you a  good basic view of how Roman society was.

Elissa Rubria Honoria is a Vestal Virgin–priestess of the sacred flame, a visionary, and one of the most powerful women in the Roman Empire. But when the emperor, Nero,  brutally executes her brother, Elissa’s world begins to crumble. Vestals are sacrosanct, sworn to chastity on penalty of death, but Nero holds himself above the laws of men and calls himself a god. He pursues Elissa, engaging her in a deadly game of wits and sexuality. Or is Elissa really the pursuer? Determined to seek to revenge, she stumbles on dark secrets and affiliates herself with a strange religious sect call Christians, jeopardizing her life and the future of the Roman Empire.
I really liked this book. Without sounding like I love myself, I do know quite a lot about Roman society and the author obviously spent time studying as well. Not only has she looked into the social structure of Rome but she has also looked at the influence of Christianity, which was a young religion at that time. I loved the part Suzanne has given to Paul. He is very calm and filled wisdom. The way he influenced the other characters by simply being there is quite significant. Also because I think that is exactly why Christianity was so successful, compared to the quite brutal Roman Pantheon. There are some sexual scenes in this book, yet they fit in their context and do not seem out of place. Also, they aren't overly sexual.

The only criticism I have for this book is that the story of Flavia, Elissa's sister, seems unfinished in the end. Her story is quite exiting, as she is trying to seduce Nero to protect her family. Yet as Elissa's story seem complete in the end you still want to know whether Flavia will be fine. It might be a deliberate choice to keep the reader in the dark, yet a page would have been enough to inform us of her state. EDIT: I learned that there will be a sequel about Flavia. It was deliberate and Suzanne has been so kind as to let me read it as soon as it's out! So keep your eyes open. I also liked the character of Nero, even though I think Suzanne has slightly exaggerated his behavior. He is this perfect tyrant that is completely enveloped in his own greatness.

The end is slightly abrupt for my taste, yet all story lines, expect Flavia's, come together.
I give this book...

3 Universes!!!

I really liked this book and I recommend it to everyone who enjoys historical novels. The characters are lively and the setting is very well explained and researched.

What do you think? Do you like historical novels? 


  1. I do enjoy historical novels, and I'm definitely now interested in this one :)

  2. This sounds good and I love historical fiction

  3. I do luv historical novels. I did read one about Nero years ago. I think the title title is The Flames of Rome. The book is really good. I like Christian historical fiction too. Often, Rome plays a part in those novels. Great review.

  4. Historical novel taking place in Roman Empire.. sounds really great :) I love anything that deals with history and culture, especially of Europe and Asia (I am from Poland, living in Canada.. I miss Europe a lot!).

    Thank you for your review. You got yourself a new follower. Please stop by my blog too, let's connect :)

  5. Nice review! I reviewed this book as well and had some similar thoughts- particularly regarding Flavia!

    You can check out my review here.