The Pirates of Pompeii is the third of Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries and picks up right where the most excellent Secrets of Vesuvius (review here) left off – a Pompeii devastated by volcanic eruption. Pirates are preying on the living victims of Vesuvius, the slaves and children wandering on the mountain and on top of the ruins, separated from their masters and families by several feet of ash and pumice. It’s not long before our young group of heroes, led by the indomitable Flavia Gemina, are on the case, risking their necks to discover the identity of the pirates’ secret Patron.
After the trauma of The Secrets of Vesuvius, it’s no easy matter to watch ever-curious Flavia and her friends – Nubia the slave girl, Jonathan, the Jewish-Christian, and brave, tongueless Lupus and their mischief-seeking dogs – confront new dangers in the refugee camps, overflowing from the disaster of the eruption. The pirates are a frightening bunch, not least because they seem to have the backing of someone wealthy and powerful. But who? Flavia is determined to find out.
Above all else, though, The Pirates of Pompeii stands out for its vivid and heart wrenching depiction of Roman child slavery. This episode of the Roman Mysteries looks in particular at the relationship between Flavia and her rescued slave Nubia, a girl who isn’t even called by the name she was given at birth. We get a look at how some other Romans treat their slaves – as does Flavia – and at the treatment dealt out to them if they’re caught escaping. If this novel doesn’t have you in tears then you’re made of much stronger stuff than me.
Caroline Lawrence is a wonderful writer, historian and communicator. Kids will not only be thoroughly entertained by these Roman Mysteries, they’ll also learn so much about this fascinating period of history. Definitely not just for kids, though. Definitely not.
I look forward to the next in the series, The Assassins of Rome, also now reissued with a fantastic new cover.
The Roman Mysteries II: The Secrets of Vesuvius