Beyond the Wall by Tanya Landman review – brutality and hope in Roman Britain

Chases and cliffhangers abound in an excellent YA novel about a 14-year-old slave girl escaping sexual exploitation

What was it like to be a slave in the Roman empire? Pretty grim, according to Tanya Landman’s excellent YA novel set in fourth-century Roman Britain. Well, of course, you might say – how could deprivation of liberty and hard labour be anything else? But as we soon discover, there was something even worse in store for many slaves, particularly the young, vulnerable ones – sexual exploitation.

Fourteen-year-old Cassia is a slave on the estate of Titus Cornelius Festus, a rich, powerful Roman and a nasty piece of work. He tries to rape her, but she fights him off and goes on the run to nearby Londinium. There she is saved from being recaptured by the enigmatic Marcus Aquila, a young Roman only a few years older than her. But is he a true ...