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Reviewed by Aimee Carol Dixon for Readers' Favorite
In Ana Costa Alongi’s Mortal Flesh: The Last Hero of Pompeii very little is as it seems. As one of the elites of Roman society, Marcus Poppeus wants for nothing. A life of luxury and promise stretches out before him, courtesy of his parents’ money and his own ambition for a seat in the legal body of Rome. An advantageous marriage has long since been arranged, and he is largely left to his own devices. He is content. All is as it should be until one day, completely by accident, Marcus becomes privy to a secret held deep within the heart of the slave girl who grew up by his side. From that moment on, the doubts Marcus has kept at bay for years struggle to the surface and he sees his world through fresh eyes. Meeting his intended bride for the first time since they were children solidifies his misgivings, setting him on a path that pushes him beyond the bounds of his station and has him questioning the very bedrock of his society.
Mortal Flesh is a powerful novel. Alongi has perfectly captured a world where beauty is often skin deep and corruption runs rampant. This setting, coupled with a character who yearns to be moral, provides much of Mortal Flesh’s dramatic tension. You can actually sense Marcus waking up, as if from a suppressed state, and becoming keenly aware of the little wrongs in his life. Alongi’s choice to begin where she does allows Marcus’ growth to be more easily identified – by the end he is a completely different person from the naive young man climbing with his friends on holiday. A bit rough around the edges, but glorious all the same, Mortal Flesh comes complete with a delicious twist at the end that is sure to leave you eager for the next installment of Ana Costa Alongi’s The Time Chronicles series.