As with all of the I Survived series, this one follows the experiences of a young adult. Marcus is a young slave in the household of a rich man in Pompeii. He and his father had been the slaves of a kind owner named Linus, who was a scientist in Rome. Linus respected Tata (Marcus's father) and took him along on his research trips. But when Linus died, his nephew Festus inherited everything, including the slaves. He sold Tata off and took Marcus back to Pompeii. One day as Marcus is running errands he sees a procession coming through town and his father is in it. It seems that their reunion will be very brief since the volcano above the city is shaking the earth and venting deadly gases into the area. Even though Tata tries to warn everyone, they will not listen to a slave. Marcus and Tata will have to escape from their owners and the city if they want to live.
Tarshis does an excellent job of describing this ancient culture for modern readers. The details of the clothing, social classes, and even the foods (honey-baked stuffed mice) are accurate depictions of the Roman Empire in 79 A.D. The way in which slaves were treated as property and disregarded is also true to life. After learning of the customs of the times, you begin to feel that some of those who died in the eruption deserved their fate. For readers who want to learn more, there are answers to some of their questions in the back of the books as well as suggestions for further reading and learning.
I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. We just added this book to the library through our Scholastic Book Fair.