All The Books I Can Read

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Review: The Golden Dice – Elisabeth Storrs

on February 18, 2014

Golden DiceThe Golden Dice (Tales of Ancient Rome #2)
Elisabeth Storrs
Cornelian Press (self-published)
2013, 424p
Copy courtesy of the author

Caecilia was a young Roman woman, wedded to an Etruscan in a political move. The two peoples have been at war for generations and Caecilia had to put her fear and disgust at the more liberal Etruscan ways aside. To her surprise, she and her husband managed to find common ground and although he divorced her and was to send her back to Rome, Caecilia chose to return to Vel Mastarna for a real marriage, wanted by both of them.

It is is now seven years since she has made that decision and she has presented Vel Mastarna with three healthy sons. However her position as Vel Mastarna’s wife is still a precarious one, especially with the changing political situation and the voting of a King to rule over Veii, one who would happily see her husband slaughtered in battle and Caecilia returned to her people in Rome for appropriate punishment befitting a traitor.

Semni is a young servant girl who finds herself in trouble and homeless with her young son. Taken in by a servant in the House of Mastarna she knows a terrible secret that would horrify Vel Mastarna and his wife if they were to find out what she knows. Semni may be the one person who can help save Vel Mastarna’s heir, if she can decide to let go of gratitude and do what is right.

Pinna is a tomb whore who overhears something that she uses to change her life forever. She’s able to blackmail her way into a war campaign as a courtesan, although she and her army protector have no real relationship. He loves another whom he cannot have and Pinna is drawn to the powerful General who calls upon her to ease his stress headaches and listen to his problems. Although sworn to one man in a false promise, Pinna can’t help but want another and it could threaten her very life. If she were to be exposed as a former tomb whore, she’d never see the general again. Her security hangs by a thread.

The Golden Dice weaves three tales of very different women together, some of whom have crossed paths and some of whom are connected to the others by tiny threads. Readers of The Wedding Shroud, the first in this series are familiar with Caecilia, the young woman who was forced to marry an enemy Etruscan. That young girl is now a grown woman, mother of three and concerned wife. Her husband Vel Mastarna is usually home from campaigning throughout the winter however now the growing tensions look as if he will be away all of the year. Caecilia fears that the changing political situation in Veii will not only leave her a widow but also threatened with extradition where she would certainly face torture and death for betraying the Roman people. Although she has adopted her new homeland as her own, she’s well aware that many locals don’t feel the same way about her. She’s still Roman in many eyes and the regard her with suspicion and contempt. Caecilia is certainly a changed character in some ways in this novel, she has certainly grown up and has adapted to some of the Etruscan ways that she found so difficult when she first went there but it’s not easy for her. Rome was her home and she doesn’t want to see it invaded and destroyed but nor does she want Veii to suffer any damage. Her loyalties are to her husband and her sons and she faces threats from every direction whilst Vel Mastarna is away campaigning and fighting battles.

I really enjoyed the other two stories that were woven into Caecilia’s story. Semni is young, married to a man who didn’t excite her and occasionally over-indulged in some of the Etruscan pleasures. When this comes back to haunt her she finds herself potentially homeless with her tiny son. Semni has long had her eye on Arruns, Vel Mastarna’s bodyguard who he has left behind to guard his family but Arruns has made it clear that he has no time for foolish games and that he has a powerful duty and loyalty. Semni has to prove to Arruns that she is worthy of his time and that her days of silly dalliances are behind her and that she has a strong and mature loyalty to the House of Mastarna. I thought these two were great together, they certainly made for some wonderful scenes. Arruns is a powerful giant with a snake tattoo winding around his whole body. He’s feared but Semni finds him fascinating. She is however, quite silly and does need to get her priorities sorted if she wants him to be in her life and a father to her son.

It was interesting reading Pinna’s story because she is with ‘the other side’ being a part of the Roman camp. All she hears is negative things about Caecilia and Vel Mastarna including from some people who have a personal connection to them. Caecilia and Semni are either Etruscan or living as one so Pinna balances out the story and the war, providing the other side of the battle, a voice for the opposition. It made it hard at times, because I love Caecilia and Vel Mastarna as a couple and want them to be victorious but I also quite like Pinna and her story is fascinating. She’s a product of how Rome can go wrong – her father lost his freedom and Pinna and her mother were forced into prostitution to get by. Pinna started at the age of 11, which is horrifying but not uncommon of the time when everyone did everything at a much younger age. She serves to show us what Caecilia’s cousin Marcus and former admirer Drusus are up to.

The Golden Dice is an excellent follow up to The Wedding Shroud, giving us a story rich in colour and history with some clever characters. The end of this one leaves so much yet to happen and I can’t wait for the third book to discover what comes next.


Book #40 of 2014


The Golden Dice is the 14th book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

3 responses to “Review: The Golden Dice – Elisabeth Storrs

  1. Marg says:

    I am really looking forward to reading this one! I even have some space so I could get to read it soon.

  2. Bree, thanks so much for the lovely review. I’m delighted you enjoyed The Golden Dice and appreciate that you took the time to read it. And Marg, I hope you can ease my book onto the top of your pile eventually!

  3. […] at All the Books I Can Read reviewed the second book in the series, The Golden Dice, which continues the story and luckily it left her waiting eagerly for the third […]

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