Written by Frances Webb
Published by Eloquent Books
Review by Tracey Skeine
After Eutropius’ mother dies while giving birth to him, the newborn is raised by a shepherd and his wife. The shepherd castrates the baby to increase his worth and sells him into slavery, where Eutropius eventually becomes part of a young woman’s dowry. He develops a close relationship with his new mistress, Sophie, until he is caught pandering and is released from service without financial support.
Eutropius’ struggle with his lack of social and sexual power translates into lust for political power and wealth. He is determined to overcome his outcast status and concocts devious schemes (switching brides on the Emperor and kidnapping a bishop) to reach a powerful position in society. However, as he works his way up, public outrage over such a high standing for a eunuch threatens to knock him back down again. With physical violence and verbal insults raging against him, is it possible for him to keep everything he has earned?
I’m reading a lot of books about Ancient Rome since I’m writing my own novel set during that time. I find Innocence and Gold Dust to have historically accurate details and the story gives the mood of the era. I was fascinated by Eutropius and his outcast status because of his being castrated and sold into slavery. I think Webb has a keen sense for human nature because though Eutropius cannot fulfill any physical desire, he becomes consumed with a desire for power. He becomes devious in his pursuits, and this novel contains all of the violence one would expect from a story centered around the Roman Empire. Through his perseverence, Eutropius becomes the power behind an emperor, and we see the extravagance as well as the carelessness. Even at over 400 pages, I found this book to be a quick read because I was so engrossed in Eutropius’ story. Highly recommended.
Tracey Skeine is graduating with her degree in English Literature in June 2012. She is currently working on her first novel set in Caesar’s Rome.