The first book in an alternate reality series set in modern times.

Publication year: 2013
Format: ebook, kindle
Publisher: Silver wood books
Page count: 319 (at GoodReads)

The story starts in the present-day New York but in another reality. Karen Brown is a pretty ordinary young woman with a low-level job at a marketing firm. But her real passion is her volunteer work at the Kew Park. However, when she asks a group of young men to stop harassing an old Native man she has no idea what sort of trouble she finds herself in. One of the men has very influential parents and Karen is banned from the park. But soon she has a lot of other things to think. Strange men follow her, and she meets a particularly handsome man who seems to take a special interest in her. Then she finds out that her family isn’t quite whom she thought them to be. Her mother, who passed away years ago, left her a legacy which her uncle and aunt have kept a secret from her after her father’s death. Soon, government agents are harassing her, and her only ally is that handsome man from Nova Roma. Should she trust him?

This is a modern-day thriller but set in an alternate reality where a group of powerful Roman families established their own country, Roma Nova, which survived to the modern day. However, the Roman customs had to give way to more practical considerations and in this country, and world, women are able to rise to powerful positions and do so. Even though Karen’s mother is from Roma Nova, she doesn’t know anything about the country and we find out alongside her. However, we don’t really see much about the day-to-day customs which was a small disappointment. I would have loved to see more of the ordinary Roma Novans.

The first part of the book is a fast-paced thriller but in the second part things slow down quite a bit and Karen’s character development takes the center stage. She chooses to change quite a lot and becomes responsible for her own life and choices. While she isn’t a timid person at the start, she is quite a normal young woman without any experience with criminal matters or anything like that, so she feels quite out of control and even a victim at times. Later the pace quickens again somewhat but not as much as it was at the start. That’s not a complaint, though. Karen’s life changes quite a bit and it’s natural that it doesn’t do so in just a few days.

In fact, the story has been divided into four parts, which correspond with how Karen’s life changes. They’re almost episodic, like a miniseries instead of a continuous story (again not a complain but an observation). Unfortunately, there were a couple of things I didn’t care for. One of them was how quickly Karen becomes a fighter and not just an ordinary fighter but with some very special skills which I doubt can be learnt in just a couple of months. Also, Karen’s change in circumstances seems like wish fulfillment.

The cast of characters changes three times in the book while Karen’s life changes, too. At first, she has only one friend in the ad agency and any friends she made at the park do not contact her again. Later, we get quite intriguing characters, a couple of them powerful and elderly women.

The story has the obligatory romance, too. I didn’t mind it at first, because we didn’t get the usual nonsense reasons stopping them from getting together. Unfortunately, those reasons did come up later. But even though I’m not a romance reader, I wasn’t too annoyed by Karen’s romantic entanglements. In fact, I was content with the ending.

The story is written in first person POV. There are also brief chapters from the POV of the main antagonist, a high ranking and very skilled man who has a personal grudge against Karen.

Some of the next books in the series are in audio, so I’m going to try the next book, Perfiditas, in that format.