The Judgment of Caesar
by Steven Saylor
Reviewed by Coral
This is the 10th book in the Roma Sub Rosa series.
Traveling to Egypt, searching for a cure to his wife's mysterious illness, Gordianus arrives just in time to see Pompey murdered on Egyptian shores. But as one civil war ends, another boils over. Cleopatra and her brother Ptolemy fight for the throne of Egypt, while the people fear this new Roman peace will mean the end of Egyptian independence. Now, as Caesar arrives to "arbitrate" the siblings' dispute, Gordianus finds himself charged with clearing the name of the son he's disowned, before Caesar orders his execution.
I normally hate the kind of books that invent a main character and slot them into all sorts of important historical events. I usually can't stand to read the Arthurian legends that focus on an original characters instead of a character belonging to the legend. Original characters as the main characters is one of the small pet peeves I have with Rome. So I can't really explain why Gordianus doesn't bother me at all. He always stumbles into some major political or historical happenings, sometimes with not all that convincing explanations, but I don't really care at all. Must be because Steven Saylor's an amazing author.
True, Steven Saylor sometimes twists history to fit his own purposes, but in a subtle way. No one can change what is known to have happened, but I like that he sometimes has background events unfolding in a different way than you would expect. And though, to my knowledge, he's never outwardly contradicted historical events, the way his world unfolds has a little bit of a different edge to it than the history books.
This book has more emphasis on the historical rather than the mysterious; the mystery part of the book is over in less than 100 pages, and doesn't even start for more than half the book. That didn't bother me much, because I love history more than mystery, and really only started reading these because it was set in ancient Rome. Basically though, because of the small amount of the book devoted to the telling of the mystery, it's all over pretty quickly, with not much in the way of twists or red herrings and stuff like that.
One thing I love about Saylor, but that others may find disconcerting, is that he's not afraid to make his stories slashy. I like the way he can tell stories about the past without the feel of the past being lost behind more modern prejudices. But, dude, you really have to cut down on the French sounding words you use. Too many of them only works to destroy the authentic feeling image your book creates.