Review Blog

Nov 19 2014

The Raven's wing by Frances Watts

cover image

Harper Collins, 2014. ISBN 9780733332913
(Age: 13+) Set in Imperial Rome under the reign of Caesar, this story opens with Claudia, the central character and narrator being abducted during the night before her wedding day.
Consideration and analysis of power is evident on various levels within this story. Senators jostle for political influence by cultivating friendships and marrying to acquire wealth and noble attachments. Women have limited influence within the patriarchal society beyond what respect is accorded them by their wealth and familial connections. Slaves acquired from defeated colonies are at the mercy of masters who purchase them like animals and as such, they could be treated humanely, leading a tolerable existence or they could be abused and tortured by unfeeling, brutal owners.
Claudia had been living happily with her Aunt and Uncle in a small provincial town and was betrothed to marry a sweetheart when her plans fell suddenly awry with the arrival of a messenger from Rome. News is delivered that her absent and completely unfamiliar father, a wealthy Roman Senator commands her presence and she complies, accepting the ignominy of breaking off her engagement and enduring the distress of leaving her beloved Aunt and Uncle.
Claudia's father had remarried to a new wife with grown children, a son with Senatorial aspirations and two daughters, the eldest being independently wealthy as the widow of an elderly aristocrat. Claudia is distinctly aware that she is considered rough and uncultured, possessing unrefined clothing and adornments, but equally from being ignorant of the complex social intricacies and expectations in the capital city. Whilst she is naive, Claudia is intelligent and beautiful, and soon discovers that her situation is being manipulated by her stepmother who desires that she marries her son, in order to secure a noble pedigree via adoption, and wealth from her Senatorial father. Claudia's romantic feelings for a man betrothed to her widowed stepsister causes her angst and confusion, as does her awareness that as a woman, she has no say in how her future is decided whilst she is treated as a commodity in marital plans which value the acquisition of power and influence over love and happiness. An unexpected death sees Claudia trying to unravel a mystery whilst having to tread carefully as she determines who deserves her trust and affection.
13+ readers who have a specific interest in Ancient Rome may enjoy this historical mystery.
Rob Welsh

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