Thursday, April 19, 2012

Enslaved by Cassandra Dean (e-book)

I don't usually read stories written in the first-person POV --

I've had enough cringe-worthy reading experiences in the past to learn to avoid these kinds of stories --

But when I came across Cassandra Dean's debut novel, Enslaved, and read the summary, I knew I wanted to read it.

Yesterday morning, I woke up at 1 and couldn't fall back asleep -- so I decided to scan through the e-book. I didn't stop "scanning" until almost 4 a.m. -- by then, I had finished reading the book. And I was teary-eyed not from lack of sleep but from Marcus and Lucia and their story.

(And when I finished the book, I wanted to re-read it right then and there -- but I had a full day ahead of me -- so I decided to try to sleep.)

Lucia is the youngest daughter of an ambitious lanista (manager of gladiators) -- and her father has recently acquired Marcus, a Thracian, with commercial potential (read: will make them lots of money and gain their ludus fame).

Lucia is tasked by her father to teach Marcus about Roman Mythology because his new arena persona is Crassus, "born of gods and slayer of kings" (Location 279) --

As the lessons progress, Lucia's feelings for Marcus develop from fear to interest. But neither Marcus nor Lucia are free to express what they feel -- and so they hide their true feelings for each other and continue with the life they are consigned to live.

Cassandra Dean displays incredible focus as she takes us through the love story of Lucia and Marcus, a story which spans 10 years. Told through Lucia's eyes, we see the journey of a woman and a man who are both tragically bound by the rules of Roman society. Enslaved is an apt title and, while it initially applies to Marcus and his life as gladiator, we slowly see that Lucia is also "enslaved" by her father's wishes and her mother's ambitions.

I am impressed with how Dean handled narrative time -- her story moves from one day to one week and then to years -- and it is a fluid movement. By the end of the story, ten years have passed and we can see how the characters have developed. They are the same ... but they are different and we have seen the transformation unfold in Dean's gradual but deliberate storytelling.

Dean set out with an ambitious project: to tell a love story set in a not-so popular period (time of the Roman Empire) about two very dissimilar people (a gladiator and his domina) using a challenging point-of-view.

But Cassandra Dean's boldness is rewarded. She manages to make everything work. This is a keeper of a story and I am delighted to have read it.

Dean's second book, Teach Me is out now in e-format. (And, yes, I've bought my copy already. ^_^)

One small niggle: Why would Lucia's father have a gladiator study with his 16-year-old daughter unchaperoned?

Disclosure: I won this copy in a giveaway.


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