When author Alison Morton sent me Retalio, the last book of the Aurelia trilogy, I thought I would have no problem reading and reviewing it in a timely manner. This past week has been infernally busy, so it took me far longer to read Retalio than I expected. Yet it was so suspenseful that I hated having to set my Kindle down.
I have read and reviewed the following books in the alternate history matriarchal Roma Nova series on this blog: Inceptio, Carina , Perfiditas, Aurelia and Insurrectio. Since this is the sequel to Insurrectio, I would recommend reading that review for background information.
When I read about the condition of Roma Nova under the rule of fascist dictator Caius Tellus in an alternate version of the 1980's, I was reminded of accounts dealing with Khmer Rouge Cambodia. They too had a nationalist ideology involving restoring Cambodia to the way it was in ancient times. Anyone who had skills or an education was regarded as a threat to this goal and was eliminated. Caius wasn't as extreme, but he did attempt to do away with any women who had any skills or education. This was massively genocidal and predictably resulted in societal collapse as it did in Cambodia. I wonder if Khmer Rouge Cambodia existed in Roma Nova's alternate timeline. If so, the fall of Pol Pot in 1979 would have been a recent event that should have caused potential followers of Caius to hesitate before committing to his cause. Unfortunately, relatively few people learn any lessons from the experience of a distant country which usually isn't regarded as relevant.
So the invasion by those Roma Novan leaders and military personnel who had managed to escape into exile did encounter resistance. Even though I knew the result from having read the 21st century Carina books, I identified with Aurelia who went through an intensely dramatic turnaround at a moment when she was fairly certain of victory.
Due to the focus on women in aviation on this blog, I was pleased that a rather bold female pilot played a surprise role.
In addition to the tension of plot twists, there was a powerful pagan religious ritual which was integral within the context of the narrative. Since the founders of Roma Nova had left Christianized Rome because they were devout worshipers of ancient divinities, I was hoping to see some moments of spiritual depth in their descendants. I finally saw it in Retalio when the exiles came together for a fervent funeral rite. Silvia, the future ruler of Roma Nova in the Carina trilogy, was still a teenager. Yet I felt that she came into her own during that ceremony. Ave Imperatrix!
I am hoping that Alison Morton will take a more historical direction when she returns to Roma Nova. I would love to see novels dealing with the founding of Roma Nova, and the origins of the matriarchy.