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City on Fire

A Novel of Pompeii
Paperback
$15.99


Description

As Mount Vesuvius churns in the distance,

a runaway slave and a nobleman craving justice join forces.

In the coastal town of Pompeii, a new gladiator star is on the rise. But the gladiator hides a deadly secret: she’s actually a runaway Jewish slave named Ariella, who’s disguised herself as a young boy. A savvy fighter, Ariella determines to triumph in the arena, knowing her life would be forfeit should anyone uncover her truth.

Cato, a wealthy politician,  resettled in Pompeii after tiring of the corruption in Rome. But he soon learns Pompeii is just as corrupt, and if he doesn’t play the game, his family could pay the price. Determined to bring about justice for the citizens of Pompeii, Cato searches for allies. But what he discovers instead are a confounding group of Christians… and a young female gladiator whose fame is growing daily.

Political unrest reaches a boiling point, as Christians are jailed and executed, and the mountain in the distance threatens to destroy the city with a river of fire. Cato and Ariella must act quickly and courageously to save their loved ones before all is lost. 

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Captivating Historical Fiction October 28, 2013

City on Fire by Tracy Higley (This is a reissue of the 2011 book for those who have previously read the author's books.)
It is the story a Jewish girl who has fled the destruction of the burning of the Temple in Jerusalem and the persecution of the Jewish people by Nero, to Pompeii, a city we know is a city doomed. The rumbles of Vesuvius are warnings to us who know the fate of the city.
Ariella, Lioness of G-d as her names translates, becomes quite the lioness as she goes from slave to gladitor.
" I am invincible," she claims. Angry and bitter, she no longer trusts God, but in her own strength.

The author has done well with researching the culture, and lifestyles of those in Pompeii. Pompeii was a vile city, the culture and morality portrayed in the book are what you would expect of a Roman Empire under Nero, with fewer details thankfully. This sets the scene for the contrasts of that culture and the culture of the early Christians and their faith.

Well written, historical fiction, and I look forward to reading more of Tracy Higley's works.

Review by Heather

Rating




All the good stuff and none of the distasteful September 2, 2013

I really like historical fiction. In the recent years I've started reading Christian historical fiction and am enjoying them as well. As can be understood from the book summary above, the setting is primarily Pompeii. The start of the book gives a glimpse of Jerusalem, in 70 AD, at the time of the destruction of the Temple. Next we see Rome, just a glimpse. Only one chapter each, they set the stage for the rest of the book.

The main character, Ariella, is one of only two to survive of her family of five. She is separated from her brother and sold into slavery. For nine years she is a slave of Valerius- a disgusting man who revels in idolatry and evil deeds. The book is very very discreet on the rituals that Valerius and those like him participate in and I am so grateful. I don't see the need for books to be graphic with filth. Higley does well to paint the picture without sordid details. One night Ariella has had enough of the life she's lived and runs away to become a gladiator. Women aren't gladiators, of course, so she disguises herself as a man. The men she travels with are too dull to figure out her secret!


Meanwhile, in Pompeii the other main character, Cato, had just started his new life with his mother and younger sister. Another sister, Portia, had been living in the city for a few years prior with her husband. We get the idea that Cato was actually running from his political past. Either I skimmed too quickly or the details were sketchy, but I don't know exactly what went wrong in his career in Rome that caused him to leave. We are just given the impression that it didn't turn out so well and he's trying to start fresh.

One thing about Cato, though, is he's different. He is not a Christian at the start of this book {oh, did I give something away there?} but he is good. He avoids, for the most part, vile deeds and debauchery. He doesn't enjoy things that other Romans are particular to; he chooses not to. He does however seem to have an unhealthy fascination with the gladiator games. Anyway, it is his determination to be good that makes him seek out justice; just the thing that is lacking in Pompeii when he arrives. The city is controlled by Maius, a despicable specimen of a human!

And that is where I will leave off with telling about the book because I don't want to give too much away. If the person reading the book has any knowledge of the behavior of people in cities such as Rome and Pompeii during this time, they will understand many of the references, without needing much in the way of details. Most know of the pagan practices of these cities so I think that readers will understand what's going on although I didn't feel Higley gave much detail in the practices. Thankfully!

I did feel that the characters were well developed and I got a sense of 'who' they were. Later in the book we are introduced to Jeremiah, Europa, Seneca, Nigidia (Maius' daughter), and others. Each one we can get a sense of their personality and such by the picture Higley paints of them. The Christian aspect of it was woven throughout almost seamlessly. There are times when characters are angry with God, bewildered and confused, and other times on their knees searching for Him and asking for guidance. It is true with real life!

The one thing I did not particularly care for was there are a few instances where the plot (?) just goes back and forth, back and forth. I almost skimmed a few sections because of the repetitive back and forth. I think those parts could have been done somewhat better. Near the end I about went crazy with this problem (Ariella and Cato are rushing to save people in Pompeii- but they have to make multiple trips to the same places; it just drove me batty).

The beginning of the book has a word bank. If you have this book on Kindle, you won't need the list most of the time. Just highlight a word and the dictionary will tell you the meaning. There are a couple that it doesn't have a definition for and then that word list comes in handy. The back of the book has "The Story Behind the Story..and Beyond" which I thought was interesting. Many of the character names are ones that were truly in Pompeii! Tracy Higley's website has images of her travels to Pompeii, and other places. After the behind the story chapter is a Reading Group Guide that contains 16 questions that are good and some deeper than I expected.

I enjoyed this book and would like to read more of Tracy Higley's works. I really appreciated the scenes she painted with what I consider historical accuracy (as best I can from my limited knowledge) as well as her tact in covering sensitive topics. There is 'romance' in this book but it's not mooshy. It's old fashioned. There are a few kisses on cheeks and hands, and more than few very subtle references to other acts but none we are given any real details about. Given the time period and subject matter, I felt it very well done.

Review by northlaurelschool@gmail.com

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City on Fire : A Novel of Pompeii, Tracy L. Higley

Details

As Mount Vesuvius churns in the distance,

a runaway slave and a nobleman craving justice join forces.

In the coastal town of Pompeii, a new gladiator star is on the rise. But the gladiator hides a deadly secret: she’s actually a runaway Jewish slave named Ariella, who’s disguised herself as a young boy. A savvy fighter, Ariella determines to triumph in the arena, knowing her life would be forfeit should anyone uncover her truth.

Cato, a wealthy politician,  resettled in Pompeii after tiring of the corruption in Rome. But he soon learns Pompeii is just as corrupt, and if he doesn’t play the game, his family could pay the price. Determined to bring about justice for the citizens of Pompeii, Cato searches for allies. But what he discovers instead are a confounding group of Christians… and a young female gladiator whose fame is growing daily.

Political unrest reaches a boiling point, as Christians are jailed and executed, and the mountain in the distance threatens to destroy the city with a river of fire. Cato and Ariella must act quickly and courageously to save their loved ones before all is lost. 

More Information

Length 400 Pages
Publication Date September 17, 2013
Company
  • Thomas Nelson
ISBN-10 1401687520
ISBN-13 9781401687526
Height 8.2"
Width 5.4"