As a citizen of Carthage, Sara has no love for the Romans, particularly when she learns that her beloved brother has been killed in the war with Rome. Now she and her father, Hanno, must flee their home before the Roman army arrives to sack the city. Thus begins her journey aboard her father’s merchant ship through much danger, in a world that accorded no rights to women. Sara’s knowledge of medicine and understanding of human nature help her to maneuver in a man’s world without losing her femininity or dignity. She successfully conducts business with her father’s clients throughout the Mediterranean, relying on the wisdom and example her father conveyed to her.
Sara’s most difficult challenge, however, is overcoming her own emotions. Resentful of her position in society, she subdues her inclinations to judge and manipulate others and even learns to respect the Roman sense of duty and honor. The author has included an extensive list of nautical terms that the reader should find quite helpful.
One detail bears mentioning in this well written novel. Hanno is mortally wounded in a battle with pirates, and Sara uses all her medical experience to save his life. When she realizes that he will certainly die, she decides to give him a drug that will hasten his death. Although she cannot bring herself to do it, she allows a crew member to do it for her.
Parents may want to explain to young readers that the practice of euthanasia was not uncommon among ancient cultures that did not recognize the redemptive value of suffering. They can also use this opportunity to discuss serious end of life issues such as the sanctity of human life at all stages.