Book Review: Dying to be Roman, by E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago

Dying to be Roman - EM Swift-Hook Jane Jago

In case you missed it (it’s easy, I know), I’m a bit of a nut when it comes to ancient Rome and alternate histories. Yeah, who would have thunk it.

So I was really excited to get my hands on this new addition to the field. I was not disappointed.

What to Expect

Imagine that Rome remains the centre of power over the millennia. Diocletian established the tetrarchy but kept Rome as the center of power. Constantinus never embraced Christianity. The legions never left Britannia.

So now we have a Roman-centric world, with slightly futuristic technology, ruling over Europe.

But this is all in the background, the world building. The story itself is the story of a murder mystery, where Dai, a British officer of the vigiles (non-citizen police), is thrown together with Julia, a Roman inquisitor.

What I liked

The characters are well developed, and the world – only glimpsed in the novella – offers a rich “what-if” style background to the story. This will appeal to all lovers of speculative fiction concerning ancient Rome, and murder mysteries with a touch of romance.

What to be aware of

This is a novella, a quick read. Some of the events around the mystery are a bit rushed, and the world is presented “as is”, without going into the mechanics of Roman culture and rule, and the divergence of history from our own time-line.


A quick and entertaining read. I am looking forward to seeing how Swift-Hook and Jago develop the world further, delving into the richness of Roman culture and exploring how it evolved over the course of history. I’m curious to see how Dai and Julia build up their relationship, and what are they going to encounter in t heir next case.

If you love ancient Rome, murder mysteries with a touch of romance, and some “what if” questions to ponder – you should pick up your copy soon.


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