by William Napier

Reviewed by Coral

After her parents are killed by the plague, Julia is sent to live with her Uncle Lucius in Britain, on the very edges of the Roman Empire. Once a strong, united Empire, Rome is now tearing itself apart at the seams, destroyed by civil and foreign wars. Pagan versus Christian. Roman versus Roman. Brother versus brother. Now Julia, Lucius and Marcus must struggle to stay alive while Rome collapses all around them.

I found this book while wandering through a book sale. I'd never heard of the author, didn't know anything about what he was like as a writer, but it was cheap so I picked it up. Lucky for me I did, because this was an enjoyable read all the way through.

One thing I liked about the story, the tone of it came across as very open minded. That's hard to do, especially when you're dealing with issues like Paganism versus Christianity. Never once did I get the feeling that the author was trying, subtlety or otherwise, to favor one over the other. He wrote about it in a truthful way, how they both persecuted and attacked each other. I liked how some of his characters were pagan; sometimes when I read books about Rome all of the main characters are Christian, which I never found too believable.

I liked that the book had a slashy scene (nothing too graphic for those of you who are squeamish) without making a big deal of it. It was just something that happened, much like it would have in real life back then.

I didn't like how the Emperor Constans was portrayed; it was every gay stereotype rolled up into one character. I wish that, just once, I can read a book where the emperor who sleeps with men wasn't such a cliché. I mean, I must have read this exact same character (only with a different name) in at least 20 books.

Another thing I didn't like about the book, a minor nitpick really, was how modern it was. What I mean by that is that certain words or sayings were used in the book that wouldn't have been around at the time the book was set in. Now I'm not saying an author should limit himself or herself to only the words that existed at the time, because that's ridiculous. What I mean is that words that are so obvious foreign just don't fit in well with a book that's supposed to be set in ancient Rome. Rendezvous, for example. Or ennui. These are French based words, but the novel is set in a time when French as a language did not exist yet. Also sayings like "ponces" or "nancies". I just can't see ancient Romans using them, not really.

Grade: B