The first book in the second Roma Nova trilogy. It can be read without reading the other books first. In fact, if you don’t like spoilers, I recommend starting with this book because it’s a prequel to the first trilogy.

Publication year: 2015
Format: ebook
Publisher: Pulcheria Press
Page count: 370

It’s 1960s and Aurelia Mitela is one of the elite Praetorian guards in Roma Nova. Her mother, the leader of the politically powerful Mitela family, is trying to make her to contract with Caius Tellus whose family is also politically powerful. Contracting is sort-of like marrying except that the man doesn’t own the woman’s property and the man joins the woman’s family. Aurelia has known him from childhood but she also knows that he’s not a good man; in fact he might be a psychopath. So, she firmly tells her mother no.

Aurelia’s assigned to a training exercise at the mountains bordering Prussia and Roma Nova. By accident, her group almost catches a group of smugglers but the last of the smugglers gets away, leaving only derisive laughter echoing behind him. Aurelia is notified that her mother, Felicia, was in an accident. It leaves Felicia mentally incapable of doing much at all. Aurelia tries to take over for her, but when she exhausts herself trying to do everything, she pretty much retires to do just the family paperwork. However, imperatrix of Roma Nova sends her to Berlin. She’s sent to find out who is behind a silver smuggling ring and to generally spy on the Germans.

In Berlin, the pace quickens and the plot has many twists and turns.

If you already like Morton’s style, you’re also going to love this one. It’s terrific alternate history thriller where Aurelia must fight for her own life on several occasions. It’s also full of interesting female characters, from Roma Nova’s empress to various soldiers. Most of the action happens outside Roma Nova in the 1960s, so Aurelia and the women around her are subjected to quite a lot of sexism, too.

Aurelia is actually quite similar to Carina because they’re both soldiers dedicated to the nation and they’re also both tough, competent, and (most of the time) sure of themselves. However, Aurelia has lived her whole life on Roman Nova and in a very wealthy and privileged family and she has a complex relationship with her mother Felicia who isn’t a soldier and can’t understand that world. Aurelia already has a 5-year-old daughter but her father isn’t seen in the book. There’s just a mention that he was unsatisfactory partner. Her daughter is also ill a lot. Aurelia encounters the love of her life in this book, but that aspect doesn’t take over. In fact, he isn’t seen much and remains a very distant character. Also, Aurelia doesn’t have any criminal contacts and isn’t tempted to go outside the system the way that Carina often does.

Her main enemy is similarly very intimidating and competent at playing havoc in Aurelia’s life. We find out some more about Roma Novan economy where silver seems to play a large part. While the previous books had some futuristic equipment, this one has 1960s technology.

Another very enjoyable Roma Nova book. Since the events are in Carina’s past, we already know how things are going to end up but we don’t know any of the details, just the broad strokes. It can be read as a stand-alone book.