RandomCran's Rec of the Week: 8/29/11

August 30, 2011

De Immortalitate by Raum
Review by RandomCran

Rating: M 
Genre: Drama/Romance 
Characters: Edward/Bella 

As the summary of the story reveals, this is a vampire story set in ancient Roman times revolving around a human soldier Edward (renamed Antonius) and a beautiful slave named Bella: 

"The life of the Roman patrician Antonius is put at stake by his father, Felix. When Felix brings to his only son a new slave, Bella, more reasons arise for Antonius' concerns. Felix's secret can change Antonius' and Bella's destiny." ExB AU/vampires. 

In an intriguing break from canon, Felix is Antonius’ father, a revered warrior who leaves for battle when Antonius is a young boy, only to disappear for ten years. During his father’s absence, Antonius seeks a paternal role model in Caile, a man who provides a moral education to counterbalance the military upbringing Antonius received from Felix. It is easy to sense that over time Antonius has every possibility of evolving into a very powerful man as a result of these dual educations. He is a fascinating character from the very first chapter.

When Felix returns from war, Antonius is more than willing to welcome back the man who left a decade before, but it quickly becomes clear that Felix is a changed man with a sinister side. As a result, great tension begins to build as Antonius must accept that the father he remembers as a young boy is not the same man who has come back. Although Felix is fueled by his belief he is more powerful as a result of his great change, it is clear that the power his acquired abilities has given him has only corrupted him.

Among the possessions Felix brings back to Antonius is a young woman named Bella. She has been forced into slavery after enduring the slaughter of her entire family at the hands of Felix. Felix has brought her to Antonius as a gift. As he becomes familiar with Bella, Antonius cannot help but become intrigued by her. He finds her to be a most wonderful addition to his life but wrestles with the fact that he has Felix to thank for bringing the exceptional young woman into his world.

However, the situation is something Antonius cannot run away from. He is held under house arrest by Felix, his requests to return to the battlefield falling on the deaf ears of his father. He is held firmly in place by threats from Felix to cause harm to others living within the family villa should Antonius escape. Although it is clear he yearns to return to his life a solider, Antonius shows incredible restraint and compassion for others by staying put. One can only admire his determination to keep others safe even at the expense of his own personal freedom. And as a reader, I can’t help but feel that his time spent at the villa will only serve him well in the future.

Spending time with Bella helps Antonius to pass the time during his imprisonment and his fascination with her begins to grow. The boundary line between Master and Slave begins to fall under pressure in a stirring and effortless narrative that is a joy to read:

"Bella, come here," I instructed. 

The first image that came to my mind when I saw her approaching was of the goddess Diana. Although covered in a simple tunic, Bella was more attractive than many patrician women I had met in the city just because of the way she stood. She was lean, but not too thin, and well-proportioned. Her skin was like the finest alabaster – smooth and flawless. Her cheeks, framed by some loose strands of hair that had escaped from her braid, still held the traces of her previous blush. 

She's so innocent. Her voice was hesitant, soft. "Yes, Master." 

Shifting on the triclinium to make room for her, I directed her to sit beside me. "Have you tasted it?" I asked with a nod to the pie. 

Her eyes widened. "No." 

The urge to touch her made me feel in a daze. The thought of the food in front of me was strangely alluring. She had touched the things I had just eaten, she had made them with her hands. For me, in a certain sense. I was aware that they weren't made out of love, just out of duty. But regardless, I felt cared for. 

Esma had always been as a mother to me, always loving. I was used to being spoiled by her. But arriving to dinner, finding a room well prepared, eating the food that Bella had cooked...It was new, and it felt so good. 

I took a small piece of the pie and, holding it with my fingers, I offered it to her. She didn't move, and I stared at her glorious mouth. Her lips were slightly parted, and they seemed like a juicy pomegranate. I wanted to feel them. In a slow motion, I put the piece of pie directly in her mouth. 

She remained still, and the blush to her face came back, this time in a shade of deep crimson. 

As his interest in Bella takes shape, the young slave is also cultivating feelings for her Master. For the times, she is an educated woman but also takes joy in the tasks that keep her busy in her new reality, particularly if they can benefit Antonius:

I did the ordinary darning work for the simple tunics and cloaks of other slaves and freedmen who didn't have a wife or a daughter who could do that for them. Then I could devote my attention to the work I liked most. At home, my wet-nurse had taught me to weave and to embroider, and I was making a new tunic for Antonius. After working with the coarse fabrics of the servants' clothes, the fine wool that had been purchased for the master seemed even softer. 

The wind outside had grown and rattled the pine shutters, creating drafts around the small room where the loom was. I felt at ease there, more than in the spacious, rich rooms reserved to the master and his guests. At first, I had been impressed by the mosaics and the frescos that decorated the master's quarters, but then, I preferred the intimate atmosphere of the kitchen or of the cozy room where I was weaving. I was so focused on the task that I barely heard the sound of footsteps. I imagined it was Esma who was coming to see how my work was progressing or to give me a different chore to do. 

"Do you think that the master will like the new tunic I'm making for him?" I asked without looking behind me, as soon as I sensed that she was entering the room. 

"I'm sure he will!" I heard. But it wasn't Esma's voice. I spun around and felt the rush of blood to my cheeks. 

Antonius was just behind me, almost laughing, his eyes bright and shining as the sea on a summer day. 

As Antonius and Bella are drawn closer together by their mutual attraction, one can also feel the encroachment of tension surrounding them from every direction. Raum’s buildup of suspense is quiet but undeniable and it is deceptive to think that their shaky sense of peace can maintain itself for long. It feels as though Antonius is gathering his focus, summoning his courage for an upcoming battle. He knows that he and Bella are likely to lose against the powerful Felix and is trying to prepare for that possibility.

De Immortalitate is a work in progress with ten chapters posted. It remains to be seen what will ultimately happen to any of the main characters but with Raum posting updates faithfully on Saturdays, one doesn’t have to wait for long to see what happens next.

And I am not alone in my enthusiasm for this story. It has been nominated for the Emerging Swan Awards and is more than deserving of the accolades. Raum’s work is an absolute delight to read. Please take the time to do so.


  1. Raum said...:

    Thank you, RandomCran and thank you IndieFicPimp!

    - Raum

  1. miaokuancha said...:

    What a lovely review! And well-deserved!

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