My children are voracious readers. In search of something that would capture my oldest’s attention, I discovered The Thieves of Ostia by Caroline Lawrence, the first in her The Roman Mysteries series at our local library.
I made sure I read it before Nathaniel, because I was concerned about the character treatments, plot, and any philosophies espoused. What I found delighted both me and Nathaniel.
The Roman Mysteries are based around the lives of four children in the Roman era – it starts in the reign of Emporer Vespasian. Ostia is the port city of Rome, where Flavia Gemina, a Roman sea captain’s daughter, lives. Through the course of this book, you meet the other main characters: Jonathan, a Jewish Christian; Nubia, an African slave; and Lupus, a mysterious boy who cannot talk because his tongue’s been cut out (quite a mystery that is solved in one of the later books).
I honestly was a bit nervous about how Lawrence would treat the subjects of religion and violence in her books, but she handles both with honesty and tact. She doesn’t shy away from the religious differences or the violence in Roman society, but she doesn’t dwell on them either. (Children who are especially sensitive should wait until they are older to read these books. Examples of violence and evil acts throughout the series include: slavery, gladiator fights, beatings, animals chasing children, and Lupus’ tongue being cut out. Parents who are unsure should pre-read them.)
However, for those who can handle the tension, action and fight against evil, The Roman Mysteries will hold their attention.
Nathaniel and I are rereading The Roman Mysteries and introducing his nine-year-old sister to them as well. She told me she wasn’t sure if she’d like them, but gave them a try. Now, she’s devouring them at the pace of about one book a day! It won’t take her too long to get through the series – depending on how often we get to the library.
It’s a rare thing to find a book that captures the interest of an 11-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl and their (ahem)-year-old mother. These books are keepers for sure!
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