My family and other Romans by Marie Basting and Flavia Sorrentino

What a fantastic mix of fantasy, mythology and fun.  I must admit that I had not really taken on board the term LARP (Live Action Role Play) until I read this book.  That is not to say that I was unaware of the concept, it is just that when I was involved in English Civil War re-enactment in the 1970s, such terms had not been invented.  I am sure that many people have been to this type of events, from medieval jousting to World War 2, but this specifically relates to seeing the Ermine Street Guard  and other groups, who research and perform re-enactments of  Romano-British  army events.  I had heard of Housesteads and the excavations that have been going on there, but I was surprised that the well known fort of Vindalanda is only a couple of miles away, so these are now on my “to visit” list.

This is the story of Silvia Fortuna Juno De Luca, or Livi to her friends.  She lives up near Hadrian’s Wall with her father, who is a fanatical role player; anything from Lord of the Rings to his favourite, the Romans.  Everyone is just getting ready for a major re-enactment at Housesteads Fort when some strange things start happening.  Worst of all her father suddenly disappears without a word.  What follows is like something out of a really bad dream; she can’t really be taken to ancient Romana can she?  Not only that but she finds that her ‘missing’ mother is actually the Roman Goddess Bellona; something that I would not want to admit to, having had a look online for a description, but it seems that her uncle Vulcan is behind her father’s disappearance.  When Livi is persuaded that the only way to save her father is to retrieve a golden arrow from Vulcan, she takes up the challenge.  Needless to say things are not quite as she believed and ‘someone’ may have been telling her some lies!  However, you can’t keep a good role player down and with the help of her friends and a lot of ingenuity she might find a way to save her father and halt the army that Bellona is trying to conquer Britannia (Britain) with.

Marie Basting  has given us a fabulously funny but historically correct look at the goings on in the area of Hadrian’s Wall.  What a brilliant idea to have Bellona producing offspring who are linked to Roman mythology; so there are Romulus and Remus, who are are descendants of Medusa and have serpentine hair (snakes alive!); Poly is a cyclops, Tiber is a centaur, Scylla is a sea creature and then finally there is Felix, he seems very ordinary, but manages to spring a surprise towards the end of the story.  All of the characters have very individual quirks and personalities and I particularly love Tiber, who is a surfer dude and Vulcan, who turns out to be something of a hippy.

Above all this is really a story about the real meaning of friendship, community and family.  It is a fantastical mix of mythology, dressing up and building strong relationships.  I do hope we can have a few more adventures with Livi and her family.  this is a truly delightful 5 star story.


The Author

When Marie Basting was fifteen, she was told by a careers advisor that girls like her don’t become writers. For a long time, she believed this. But then something magical happened and Marie finally came to realise that girls like her can do anything they want.

Marie lives in Manchester with her husband, son and a giant, hairy woo-dog called Polly. When she’s not writing or annoying her family, you’ll find her supporting other girls and boys to follow their writing dreams.  Princess BMX is her debut novel.