Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Roman Mysteries

Titles:  Thieves of Ostia; Secrets of Vesuvius; Pirates of Pompeii; Assassins of Rome; Dophins of Laurentum; Twelve Tasks of Flavia Gemina; Enemies of Jupiter; Gladiators from Capua; Colossus of Rhodes; Fugitive from Corinth; Sirens of Surrentum; Charioteer of Delphi; Slave-Girl from Jerusalem; Beggar of Volubilis; Scribes from Alexandria; Prophet from Ephesus; Man from Pomegranate Street; Legionary from Londinium; Trimalchio's Feast; as well as a travel guide, two quiz books, and a live-action BBC series production

Author:  Caroline Lawrence

Rating:  *** (3 stars out of 3 possible, "A")
              Highly Recommended

Audience:  5th grade and up

The Roman Mystery series offers an untapped historical setting for young mystery lovers:  The Mediterranean in A.D. 79.  Meet Flavia Gemina, 12-year old daughter of a ship's captain in Ostia, Italy.  Teaming up with her new neighbor Jonathan, a rescued slave girl named Nubia and Lupus, a mute orphan boy, the four friends eventually travel far and wide through the Roman Empire solving mysteries, including those concerning their own families.

These books are amazingly accurate to historical settings and details.  You can practically hear the slave market, smell the fishmongers, and feel the steamy baths as you follow Flavia around town.  Author Caroline Lawrence has extensive classical background, from archeology and language study to religion, teaching and traveling.  She also spares few details from an era where twelve year olds were on the cusp of adulthood.  There are a few brutal scenes and a few mature themes, but these are historically accurate, not gratuitous as we witness in much media today.

The spiritual aspects will especially interest families with a faith background.  Flavia comes from a traditional Roman gods background.  Jonathan is more than a displaced Jew from Jerusalem.  He and his father follow the new and suspect Christian faith.  As the main characters mature through the series they each come to terms with their personal belief system with surprising results for seemingly secular literature.

Children with a preoccupation with Greek and Roman gods/culture, or an interest in Pompeii and Vesuvius or gladiators will especially enjoy the realistic historical events woven into the storyline.

My oldest daughter stumbled upon this series several years ago and it has since been enjoyed by her
(boy) cousins, and now her younger sister.  The books are well-written, unique and compelling.  Sure to keep your avid readers busy for at least a month or two!  For more information, check out:

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