Monday, 31 January 2011

Book Review: The Merchant's Daughter by Iris Niven

A photo of the cover. I'm not keen on it at all.
Summary from blurb

Phoebe, the beautiful daughter of a prosperous merchant, learns of his mysterious death and is taken to Rome to be cared for by relatives of her late mother. She is introduced to Rome's high society but the appalling brutality against Christians in the arena sickens her. Her sympathy grows into interest which is sparked sparked into faith when she discovers the secret letters of Ignatius, the martyred Bishop of Antioch. She embarks on a highly dangerous mission to remove the letters to Greece for safe keeping. Adventure, betrayal and unexpected romance bring the story to a dramatic climax and to the dawning of a new day.

My review and thoughts

I was lent this by a lady at my church whose friend wrote it for her teenage daughters. If it wasn't for that, I may never have discovered this book as I only found it on the Internet and being sold on Amazon by typing in the ISBN code (9780720823769) to Google.

In the first chapter, we meet sixteen year Phoebe who is anxiously waiting the return of her father and his goods ship but instead she receives the tragic news of his mysterious death. Before she knows it, she is whisked off to live in Rome with her mother's half sister Priscilla by Priscilla's son Oresta, who is a Roman centurion. Phoebe quickly settles into life in Rome and befriends Oresta's brother Marcus and his young wife Julia. However, when Phoebe sees the cruel and tortuous ways that Christians are treated and killed in the arena she is appalled, especially because she discovered the mother she never met was a Christian. She admires their courage and firm faith even in the face of death and questions about the Christian faith begin to kindle inside her and Marcus.

The story moved along at a good pace because there was always something happening but there was a lot of beautiful description too. The writing was very different to more modern YA books that would be published now and had a more slightly old fashioned style to it, which I liked. Recently, I haven't been reading many books that are set in the third person so that was a nice change too.

Phoebe is a very likable main character who is strong headed and opinionated but very feminine too as she likes fashion and pretty dresses as well. Over the story, she develops a lot as a character as she grows in courage, improves her relationships with other characters and begins to question her beliefs.  I also enjoyed that there is some romance with conflicting feelings for her character, which made the story more lighthearted.

I have learnt a lot about Roman civilisation in my Latin lessons at school but have only read a few books set at that time so I found learning about Phoebe's and her family's clothes, social events, lifestyle  was fascinating. I particularly enjoyed reading about the persecution of the Christian's in Rome and the secret meetings held in the catacombs were very interesting.

I don't think that non- Christians should be put off by the faith theme because there isn't that much detail about the actual Christian faith and more about the persecution and danger of secretly meeting together in Rome.

Verdict: The Merchant's Daughter is a reasonably short book with a strong and likable heroine and lovely descriptions throughout that helped to build up the atmosphere and setting. I particularly loved the Roman setting and the mystery and adventure that the secret Christian meetings bought to the book. It's not the best book I've read this month but I would still recommend it. It would be wonderful to get this book more read and up on the Internet - I'm sure the author would be delighted!

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a good book, but the cover makes it look stuffy and boring, which is a shame.


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