Set in the 4th century BCE, this gorgeously-written, masterful blend of fact and fiction exposes the raw passions, betrayals and victories of three strong women as they navigate politics and corruption in an ancient world at war.
With famine weighing heavily in the Roman territories and its war coffers depleted, Rome is once again on the move. Political as well as blood alliances forged in previous battles are shattered under the Roman Consular General’s Northern military drive – a tactical move to extend Rome’s borders and claim dominion over the 12 adjacent city-states. Veii, the closest and most powerful of the twelve is the first to feel Rome’s metal. Caught in the crosshairs of this ancient war are three women, one Roman, one Veientane and one walking the razor’s edge of conflicted loyalties, all with secrets that link their lives in ways they could never imagine.
Caecilia, daughter of Rome, keeps her secret locked away in her heart. Decreed to wed Vel Mastarna of her rival city, Veii, Caecilia becomes a pawn in the politics of power. Having been previously recalled to Rome in a violent emotional tug-of-war, Caecilia’s love for her Veientane betrothed has only deepened, and from what Vel believes to have been a prophetic roll of his golden dice, Caecilia is back at his side. But Caecilia is a half-cast, straddling the wall between Rome and Veii, seen as a traitor to Rome and just another “Helen of Troy” to the people of Veii. And as the home and family she’s built in Veii is threatened she is forced to make choices that have the power to make history.
Pinna, once the proud daughter of a Roman soldier, has lost everything except her will to survive. Reduced to the status of “night moth,” an unregistered prostitute, plying her trade among the gravestones, Pinna gathers knowledge and secrets that she uses to her advantage. And when a twist of fate opens up an unexpected opportunity Pinna calls upon her sly wit to breach the established Roman social hierarchy. But Pinna’s scheming does not go unnoticed and the secret of her “tomb whore” past threatens to be her undoing.
Semni, a gifted Veientane craftswoman, craves the world of sensory experience. But her hunger for a fully sensual life leaves her with an illegitimate pregnancy and her cuckolded husband throws her into the street, penniless. Fate again intervenes, this time bringing Semni into Caecilia’s house as a servant. Although Semni’s circumstances are significantly reduced she has the opportunity for a new life and possibly for the first time, love. As Semni adjusts to the rhythms of her new home she turns a blind eye to what she thinks are minor indiscretions of another servant girl. But she soon learns that her silence endangers Caecilia’s household and may cost her the man she loves.
“The Golden Dice” is the second installment of Elisabeth Storrs’s award-winning “Tales of Ancient Rome” series. In it the author delivers engaging, believable characters infused with compassion, intelligence and unrelenting strength with a level of historical detail, both fact and fictional, that transport the reader to all of the glory and turmoil of ancient Rome.
Readers who’ve enjoyed the passion and extraordinary historical detail of Renault’s “Alexander Trilogy” and Thornton’s “The Conqueror’s Wife” will love “The Golden Dice.” A great read!