Book Review: City of Fire by Tracy Higley

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Age Appropriate For: 18 and up
Best for Ages: 18 and up

Description: As Vesuvius churns, a slave girl-turned-gladiator joins forces with an unlikely source to seek justice. In the coastal town of Pompeii, a new gladiator prepares to fight. But this gladiator hides a deadly secret: she’s a runaway Jewish slave girl named Ariella, disguised as a young boy. A savvy fighter, Ariella determines to triumph in the arena, knowing her life will be forfeit should anyone uncover the truth. Cato, a wealthy politician, moved to Pompeii after tiring of the corruption in Rome. But he soon learns that 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 is 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 its river of fire. Cato and Ariella must act quickly and courageously to save their loved ones before all is lost.

So I normally don’t like stories about women doing men’s work. So I’m not into disaster books or movies. However, Tracy happens to be one of my favorite authors, and I didn’t want to pass up a chance to review one of her books. I jumped at the chance to review City of Fire, previously released under the title Pompeii: City on Fire.

City of Fire is set during the last days of the city of Pompeii. This city has fascinated me and many other historians, because much of what we know of day-to-day Roman life comes for this city, buried under the ash and lava of a volcano.

As usual, Tracy did her research and wove the historical details into the story flawlessly. I really felt as if I was walking the streets of Pompeii and seeing things as they were. The characters were also well developed and, like all of Tracy’s books, they leapt off the page.

Although there was much good about this book, I ended up not liking it as much as I thought I would. The godless society was portrayed vividly. Unlike all the other books I have read by Tracy, this one left me feeling dirty. The faith element didn’t feel as strong as the depravity shown in the book. Prostitution, affairs, gay relationships, and nudity are mentioned often throughout the book. Historically correct? Yes. Was it worth it for the story? Not in my mind.

Although the characters encounter wonderful Christian people who live out their faith, it wasn’t enough for me to feel the book was redeemed. Unlike So Shines the Night, which also dealt with very hard issues, this book didn’t leave me feeling amazed at my faith. It left me feeling in great need of some wholesome, clean books.

I still highly recommend this author, but caution younger readers about this book.

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I received this book from Thomas Nelson via BookSneeze in exchange for my honest review. I was under no obligation to write a positive review. The opinions in this review are entirely my own.

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