Independent reviews – RETALIO

From the Historical Novel Society

This is the sixth in Alison Morton’s alternative history series set in Roma Nova—a recent-history world in which a remnant of the Roman empire has survived. By this stage the key characters are already well developed, so it is even more of an action adventure than the earlier books. That said, I found the depiction of the teenage girl, who becomes empress by hereditary default when she is more of an age to be out partying with her friends, particularly sensitive and moving.

The book, though, is more about Roma Nova’s society as a whole than about individuals, and about this nation’s place in and relationship with the world. Accordingly, there is a vast cast of characters ranging across several countries, including my native Britain. (I loved the episodes set there, with echoes of James Bond.) This is sufficiently complex to require a dramatis personae.

Retalio is a fitting end to a series that has doubled in size, like bread dough left to prove, from an initial planned trilogy to six books. I can’t help wondering whether the ending has been left slightly open to allow the author to return to familiar territory. I hope so. Either way, I will look forward to seeing what’s next from this accomplished novelist.


From Bookmuse

A read so painfully pertinent you could almost wish it were true. If you haven’t come across this alternative history series yet, I almost envy you. This is Roma Nova, what could have happened if the remnants of Roman empire was run by women.

But Roma Nova is now in trouble. One deceitful, vain and amoral man – Caius Tellus – has taken power and intends to ‘restore order’. In making Roma Nova great again, he reverses all the progress of decades and brings the land to its knees, driving a wedge between those loyal to the previous regime and his own macho cohort intent on rolling back progressive rights.

Aurelia Mitela, a senior government minister, is in exile in Vienna. But she is not alone. The people and ethics she defends are alive and well, and her supporters are legion. It’s time to get organised and fight to regain control of the country they love.

This is a love story for a country and its principles, as well as a relationship, a political and military adventure, a commitment to beliefs and a cast of unexpectedly detailed characters. Tension runs throughout as no one can be sure an ally is trustworthy until it’s too late. A page-turning pile-driver of a novel, it explores the nature of power, and those who use it for self-aggrandisement or common good.

Read it now, then go buy some horses.

You’ll enjoy this if you liked: The Roma Nova series, The Night Watch by Sarah Waters or Women Without Men: A Novel of Modern Iran by Shahrnush Parsipur

Avoid if you don’t like: Feminism, military strategy, contemporary echoes

Ideal accompaniments: Salmon with horseradish on brown bread, a mug of Gluhwein and Think, by Aretha Franklin


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO,  PERFIDITAS,  SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA,  INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO.  CARINA, a novella, and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories, are now available.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series.

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