This is a romantic historical novel, with a convoluted and exciting romantic story of passion, hate, revenge, and adventure. So what? There are many books like that, most of them pretty cheap and predictable. The trick, of course, is the writing. Bulwer Lytton, an early Victorian character with his own peculiarities (he was very interested in the mystical cults of Rome) is an extraordinary storyteller. The plot, as I said, is long to summaryze, but it concerns Glauco, a Greek stud who is beloved by almost every woman in the story; Ione, the Naples girl he loves; Nadia, a blind slave who is -of course- in love with Glauco, and the excellently portrayed Arbaces, a priest of the cult of Isis, the Egyptian goddess. Two other interesting characters are Julia, a rich and mean heiress who is, alas, in love with Glauco, and Salustio, a dissipated and drunken Roman.
The plot revolves around the constant intrigues of the characters, which include magic love-potions, betrayals and heroism. But at the back of the action, there is a volcano about to explode and leave this town covered by tons of dust and volcanic rock. The characters are planning their lives and lusting for passion, without knowing that they have no future. Like some of us, maybe.
Summing up, this novel is great entertainment, intelligent fun. The best, in my opinion, is the re-creation of a lost world, a city full of color and passion, living in full while Destiny works its own way.