Did you ever think that the Roman empire was amazing? That the knowledge they gathered from all corners of the earth and took to Rome allowed the Romans to be highly erudite and further developed than other rising nations?
Meet Lydia, the beautiful and feisty daughter of a Roman senator and watch her grow old in a land before Christ and see how she developed into a lovely young woman, been through two marriages and ended up in Antioch trying to escape the law that kills a family into its entirety if found guilty of treason. One of her four brothers, envious of the success of his older brothers and wishing to have the fortunes of the family into his hands has betrayed their name and declared their father as a conspirator with Julius Gaelicus who was next in line for the throne.
He got a third of the fortune and disappeared away into the big world before the guards could get to him.
Lydia got home that day to see her father dressed in his full armor telling her that she must travel with some friends of his that will take her to safety across the sea. He then dies by his own sword, too proud to be caught captive by the soldiers.
Lydia goes aboard a ship with two Jews, friends of her fathers, and assumes a new name, Pandora – in order to start a new life somewhere else.
She is a woman to my liking. Free, highly educated, opinionated into every matter and never backing down in the face of adversity.
She takes a lover on the ship and then leaves him in Alexandria to continue her journey. She is left alone in Antioch along with a small fortune gathered by her father during the years. She goes slave-shopping and picks up two lovely young girls and a Greek, Flavius, whom I found fascinating. Their exchanges and the deep trust that forms between them is one of my favourite points in the book.
If you take away the supernatural element, the vampiric dreams, the calling of the dark and the burnt beasts, you are left with a gorgeous book about the life of an emaciated woman during Roman times. I would have loved to learn more of their customs, to have a glimpse into the daily life of a busy city on the edge of the Mediterranean.
The second part of the book is Pandora’s encounter with her young crush, Marius, who is now a vampire, having in his charge the king and the queen of the vampires (Akasha and Enkhil), known as Isis and Osiris in Egypt.
In a turn of fate, Pandora gets turned into a vampire and becomes Marius’s Wife on the dark side. She loves him but quickly after their blood marriage, she finds out that they are truly incompatible. She is a creature of fun and mysticism, loving the raise of the new religions and philosophies, always looking for something to believe in.
Marius is her opposite – driven by logic and facts, a true Roman at heart, always questioning everything and looking at the myths and superstitions with the eyes of a wise man.
After decades together, she is keen to be free of him even though she loves him very much still.
An attack from some Christian Vampires leaves them divided and lonely over the course of the many centuries, and when they do meet again (as the fates are intertwined), she is the consort of an “aggressive Asian” vampire who was able to keep her safe during the eons, and he was in French lace at a ball during the 18th century.
She wanted to go with him but her plea for rescue never got delivered and they met again 200 years afterwards at Lestat’s head.
What I liked about the book
The description of the rise and fall of the Roman empire, the life of young Lydia, the mentions of the Greek and Roman poets and philosophers.
What I didn’t like about the book
We know that Pandora was independent. The way she describes herself as an accessory to a man’s life, a decorative piece at his hand, was a bit disappointing. I would have loved her to have roamed more, explored more, be more active! But hey, temperaments differ.