|First, this isnt actually either science fiction or
fantasy; its plain historical fiction. That said, if you are fond of historical
fantasy, or have an interest in ancient Rome, you probably will enjoy this novel as much
as I did.
Its the fourth and last of a series, but thats hardly a problem
the author quickly orientates the reader in the historical background, firmly in
the latter months of AD 69, the infamous Year of Four Emperors. Now, this is one of those
historical periods we call the "fun bits", the bits they dont teach you
about in school. This is the last of four books, so it begins with Vitellius on the throne
in Rome and Vespasian in Judaea, where he is promptly declared Imperator. It isnt a
history text though, but a novel.
The author weaves her weft of fictional events and characters through the warp of
actual historical events to create a whole cloth, and that with an intricate pattern. Her
backgrounds are intricate and detailed I doubt Ill ever forget her
description of the exterior of a Roman brothel! Her characters are convoluted,
fascinating, and their motives are often complicated - mainly because about half of them
are spies for one faction or the other. Or both.
One method the author uses to draw the reader into the characters is to write in the
first person, but switching from person to person as the chapter changes. This can be a
bit disorientating, and one does have to take note of the chapter header, but in this case
it actually worked. Mostly. I would have appreciated a list of dramatis personae to help
me keep track.
So, what you have is complex historical fiction with a strong military espionage
flavour set in one of ancient Romes most interesting times. If that appeals,
youll find this an excellent read.