"A city on the eve of destruction
A politician escaping his destiny
And a Jewish slave girl trained to die
None of them will survive unscathed.
Pleasure-seeking Romans find the seaside town of Pompeii the perfect getaway, and when the rich patrician Cato escapes Rome, intent on a life of leisure, he is unprepared for the hostility he encounters.
For Ariella, disguised as a young boy and sold into a gladiator troupe, survival is her only ambition.
But evil creeps through the streets of Pompeii and neither Ariella’s secret nor Cato’s evasion are safe. Political corruption, religious persecution and family peril threaten to destroy them, even before the mountain spews its fire.
As Vesuvius churns with deadly intent, the two must bridge their differences to save the lives of those they love, before the fiery ash buries Pompeii, and leaves the city lost to the world."
My Rating: Spring/Summer
Like Vesuvius, this book is powerful and should not be underestimated! The tension builds steadily, with short sections from the volcano's point of view that remind the reader that below the surface of political upheaval and emotional drama stirs a dangerous depth that will drastically shift priorities once it explodes upon the scene. When that explosion happens, everything changes.
Until then, different sorts of danger fill the pages--from an evil politician bent on continuing his unjust reign, to fears of inadequacy and failure, to intense gladiator fights. There's a lot to take in as a reader, and some of the events (both past and present) are heartbreaking and disturbing to read about. But through it all is an underlying message of hope and security through the Messiah even in the midst of all the evil and suffering of this life. The glimpses of community, acceptance, and love are very sweet indeed.
The love story between Cato and Ariella is also quite an interesting one! I can't help but compare Ariella (Ari) to the Disney character of Mulan. Escaping from a horrible life satisfying the lust of a perverse man, Ari disguises herself as a man and joins a group of gladiators. She is a fighter through and through, and her spirit and perseverance catch the eye of Cato, who is a prominent, albeit new, citizen of Pompeii with a heart for those under oppression. Their journey is a difficult but necessary one that ultimately demonstrates where real, lasting strength and stamina come from: the Lord.
And no section shows that truth more than the last part of the book, when Vesuvius finally fulfills her role. I admit to being rather fearful of volcanoes, especially since I saw the movie Dante's Peak when I was in middle school. Well, I made it through the conclusion of this book, and it is both gripping and moving! As I read it in the early morning hours, I ended up shedding a few tears.
Pompeii: City on Fire is not a light-hearted read, nor is it an easy one, but it is a powerful one that attests to God's control in all things and the beauty of faith amidst the darkest storm.
Note: Since this was an Advanced Reader Edition, some changes might have been made to the final edition which would not be taken into consideration in this review.