Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Review: A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii

Date Finished: 28/12/2015
2014 • 315 pages (eBook) • Rating ★★★

Well, after finishing A Year of Ravens I did say I would rectify my slackness and begin reading A Day of Fire – the H-Team's first collaborative effort – ASAP. And I did. I downloaded it to my kindle and got started straight away. The premise of the novel is pretty self-explanatory, so even if you've heard nothing about the book itself or the authors involved, you only have to glance at the title and the cover art to have a solid idea of the kind of story you’re in for. Just in case you don’t, then let me fill you in:

Pompeii is/was an ancient Roman city near modern day Naples that was destroyed in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. The scorching ash that engulfed the city froze whoever and whatever remained in Pompeii at the time of the eruption, effectively preserving details of everyday Roman life in the first century. It is actually pretty creepy. The people that stayed behind were turned in to human statues as the hot ash filled their lungs and hardened their internal organs. It’s harrowing stuff, and these authors come together to tell their own fictionalised accounts of those who were there to witness the disaster and those who fell victim to the ash that killed them.

A Day of Fire, like its successor, is written collectively by multiple authors whose characters take on different viewpoints in their own individual stories. There are six in all and being a collaborative work, there were of course some I enjoyed more than others. Sophie Perinot and Eliza Knight’s effort stood out to me most, and Knight’s story had me on the verge of tears toward the end it was so devastating. Reading a novel about the fall of Pompeii is never going to be a picnic, but it was enjoyable in that it showed just how shattering an event it was and how helpless the people of Pompeii must have felt.

I know what you’re thinking - that this sounds like a complete disaster-ride of a read that will make you want to watch re-runs of The Office just to rebalance your emotions, but this why is works. If a book makes you feel sad, or happy, or angry then I guess the author(s) is doing their job right. It’s a devastating event in history and this book brings to life the destruction of an entire city. There were just a couple of stories that I enjoyed over others, and I wished that some the characters could have overlapped in to the collective stories a little more, since a few of them appeared in their own narrative and then disappeared again all too soon.

I was surprised though when a couple of characters from another series by Kate Quinn rocked up, which I thought was pretty cool. It was weirdly reassuring to come across familiar faces amongst the commotion. Like meeting up with old pals. Overall, an entertaining and enjoyable read.

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