Review Blog

Nov 20 2008

The fatal fire by Terry Deary

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Terry Deary's Roman tales. A and C Black, 2008. ISBN 978071368970 9
(Ages 6-10) The Horrible Histories writer is now targeting younger readers with a series of short novels telling a fanciful story of some aspect of ancient times. In this, Mary, the slave to Master Tullus, is waiting for him to finish watching the games from which she is excluded. From her vantage under the table, she sees a familiar man throw a frying pan of fat against the wall setting it alight. She hurries to tell her master and together they flee Rome as the buildings burn around them. As he leaves she sees Nero, the emperor and recognizes his face as that of the arsonist.
A story which gives its readers a huge amount of information about Nero and his place in Rome's history, Deary speculates on how Rome began to burn, thus making Nero's plans to build a new palace able to be put in place. Deary gives the readers titillating facts about Nero's life and times, and by making Mary the focus of the story, allows the reader to empathize with the fate of some of the poorest of Rome's population.
Fran Knight

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