Monday 8 May 2023

The Key to Rome

The Key to Rome by Sophie Masson, illustrated by Lorena Carrington (Eagle Books, an imprint of Christmas Press) PB RRP $19.99 ISBN  9780645378856

Reviewed by Debra Williams

This is a first-class middle-grade historical adventure. It is set in Ancient Rome, in the province of Britannia, and the year is AD84. When motherless and only child Livia’s father dies, she is orphaned. On his death bed, her father gives her a mysterious key with instructions to find his brother, a former centurion, and give him the key.

12-year-old Livia sets out two days later, on her old horse, determined to find the estranged uncle, whom her father guaranteed would give her a home. The future journey was going to be neither smooth nor easy, with many pitfalls. Arriving at her uncle’s house, he has gone, and Livia is unable to find out where he is. Along the way, Livia is aided by a young runaway servant, Mato, who has a journey of his own to complete, after hearing of his mother’s illness. He also claims to know where her uncle is.

So begins a treacherous journey of danger, lies, deceit and mistrust. There are heart-stopping moments as the reader becomes absorbed in Livia’s quest, and the deadly cat-and-mouse games with various characters, Roman and otherwise.

Multi-award-winning author Sophie Masson has carefully crafted a believable and suspenseful adventure. Her details of the period have been thoroughly researched to create an intriguing historical mystery.

This book will appeal to readers 10+ years.

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