Book Review: Tabula Rasa by Ruth Downie (3/5)

4 Apr

This series has been so fun to read and enjoy. I’ve been reading it for probably about a decade now in total, but it’s easy to come back to and enjoy. This book took me longer to read than I would have liked. Life hasn’t given me a lot of audiobook time between Baby and the weather. Spring might actually arrive soon which would make it a lot easier.

41JYZlm4QsLTabula Rasa (Medicus Investigation #6) by Ruth Downie

Other books by Downie reviewed on this blog:

Terra Incognita (Medicus Investigation #2)
Persona Non Grata (Medicus Investigation #3)
Caveat Emptor (Medicus Investigation #4)
Semper Fidelis (Medicus Investigation #5)

Summary from Amazon:

The medicus Ruso and his wife, Tilla, are back in the borderlands of Britannia, where he is tending the builders of Hadrian’s Great Wall. Having been forced to move off their land, the Britons are distinctly on edge and are still smarting from the failure of a recent rebellion that claimed many lives.

The tension grows when Ruso’s recently arrived clerk goes missing and things go from bad to worse when the young son of a local family also vanishes. While struggling to keep the peace between the Britons and the Romans, Ruso and Tilla uncover an intricate deception involving slavery and fur trappers, and it becomes imperative that they solve the mystery of the two disappearances before it’s too late.

This book didn’t grab me in the same way some of the previous books in the series did. However, I think it’s because of how long it took me to get into and finish this book, which I blame more on life circumstances than anything else. Branan’s disappearance was the main focus of the book to me and Candidus seemed like an afterthought for a lot of the book, which I thought was unfair to Albanus. I’m sure there were some clues dropped into the story that I missed because of how infrequently I would pick this one up. Instead, it seemed like there were long stretches that were unimportant to the plot which is why this has been my lowest rating of the series.

I love Downie’s characters. Ruso and Tilla are a bit ahead of their time, but it comes off as comedic and the other characters are more representative of ancient Britain. The commentary about hierarchies and bureaucracy are always funny. I like the range of characters Downie has included because modern readers are able to connect with Ruso and Tilla while still experiencing those typical of the era.

Ruso is my favorite character in this series. He’s easy to relate to and empathize with. I understand his motivation and share his frustrations. I can understand why he reacts the way he does and his motivations. I think he’s a great character to connect the modern reader to the ancient world.

Tilla is very relatable as well. She gives a good non-military perspective to the story and she’s very logical and intelligent. I like seeing her work as a midwife and the ways she’s able to help Ruso and connect the Romans and Britons together. I think she exists well between cultures and it reminds me of times I studied abroad and felt not quite at home.


Ruth Downie Image via the author’s website

I thought Tilla’s relationship with the locals was the most interesting part of the book. She is very much an outsider with both groups, not being accepted because she’s ‘one of the others’ on both sides. I liked how she was able to develop a relationship with them and how it grew into something much more.

I felt the middle of the book dragged. All of the searching for Branan seemed a bit much with the way the book resolved. I thought the search for Candidus was pushed aside a bit too much. The book seemed to lack some focus even though it was full of fun characters.

Simon Vance does an amazing job narrating these books. I hope the next two are also in his voice because it’s such a joy to listen to him. His voices for women are not too distracting and he has a good range of inflections and tones for the men in the story. He’s really a joy to listen to.

The title refers to a Blank Slate. I think it’s referring to how Tilla and Ruso have a very new page now that they’re headed to Rome for the next book. I’m not sure how much the events of this book contributed to that, but I am excited to see what happens to them next.

Writer’s Takeaway: I’m not sure how necessary a lot of the character development in this book will be in the overall series. Since the characters are now leaving Britannia, the side characters we’ve come to know and love might be distant memories. As I’ve said, I didn’t really like the plot on this one but did enjoy the character development. I just wonder how necessary it all was.

An entertaining and enjoyable book, but not the strongest in the series. Three out of Five Stars

This book fulfilled the ‘Pre 1300’ time period for my 2022 When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Post:
Tabula Rasa | S.J.A. Turney’s Books & More

4 Responses to “Book Review: Tabula Rasa by Ruth Downie (3/5)”

  1. nickimags @ Secret Library Book Blog April 4, 2022 at 11:08 AM #

    I didn’t realise this was from a series set in Ancient Britain, perfect for the challenge!


    • Sam April 4, 2022 at 3:40 PM #

      The challenge gets me to read at least one of these per year haha. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Janette April 5, 2022 at 3:58 AM #

    So glad that you managed to finish this one. I’ve got the second one to read at some point.


    • Sam April 5, 2022 at 5:16 AM #

      Downie’s got a great series with these. I hope you’re able to enjoy it soon. Happy reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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