I loved Saylor’s previous Roma and Empire novels (as well as his Gordianus series), so was naturally keen to read this latest installment.
What to Expect
A continuation of the Pinarii’s observation of Roman history, covering the period from Marcus Aurelius to Constantine the Great. Saylor has chosen an old patrician family, and has placed them to observe various scenes throughout Rome’s history. This isn’t a history book, but rather a plausible representation of how events might have unfolded and what the mindset of people at the time was.
What I liked
I liked the gentle tone of the writing, the humanising of historical people and events (so often taken to sensationalist levels), and the meticulous research behind the writing. Saylor provides us with some of the best Roman-era fiction, and he’s purposefully chosen not to go down the well-trodden path of the ‘usual suspects / usual scenarios’. Saylor is choosing to portray events in plausible way, and then shows us how over time they would have evolved into myths. It’s a very engaging way to look at how history evolves and changes over time, and encourages us to read and learn more about it.
What to be aware of
Do not expect any action or high-drama, nor necessarily the ‘big’ historical events. Read this book for the human touch, for the point of view of the ‘typical’ observer at the time.
Felix, with his deeply-rooted Republican views, was at one both (morbidly) fascinated with the decline of the empire and entirely unsurprised at how each generation is lesser than the last. He did feel far more connected to the ‘common’ people who form the core of the story.
Highly recommended for anyone who’ll enjoy a bit of ‘alternative’ Roman fiction, the kind that is extremely well-research and yet charmingly flowing. While more of a fictional-non-fiction historical than a high-drama act, it nonetheless makes for an engaging read.
Enjoying the reviews, but wondering who the heck is that Felix fellow? Glad you asked! He’s the protagonist of the Togas, Daggers, and Magic series, an historical-fantasy blend of a paranormal detective on the background of ancient Rome. Come meet his on the novels or short stories — including the special homage to Saylor’s Gordianus!