by Caroline Lawrence
Suitable for Grades 5-8. In this sixth book in the series, Flavia Gemina has marriage on her mind. Her friend Jonathan’s sister celebrates her betrothal to Flavia’s uncle, her father announces his intention to find a suitable husband for her, and, worst of all, he becomes enthralled by a new woman in town. Flavia convinces her friends that Cartilia must be a witch causing changes in her father’s behavior, and when Hercules comes to her in a dream, she knows she must solve the mystery of who Cartilia is and how she has bewitched her father. This is a mixed bag of a book. While Lawrence does an excellent job of re-creating the customs and daily life of ancient Rome, the mystery is a bit thin. Cartilia’s intrusion and integration into Flavia’s family is abrupt, and the girl’s dislike of her is extremely modern. A bigger issue comes with the fact that Lawrence writes with the assumption of familiarity with her characters. However, if readers are willing to suspend a bit of disbelief and figure out the relationships among the people, they will be in for a treat. The glimpses of life from another time are fascinating, and the story moves quickly enough to keep interest going.