Plot: Caesar’s adopted son, Octavian, is determined to seize power wherever he can. But his younger (also adopted) brother, Juba, has a different agenda. He wants to see the fall of Rome for what they did to his true family and he might have found a weapon to see it come together. A weapon of the Gods themselves.
Across the sea in Egypt, young Caesarion is learning what it means to rule. He knows he is not the god people believe him to be, and will do whatever he can in his mortal power to protect Alexandria from the Romans.
Quote: `”Well, I think that’s the real reason evil exists in the world,”Didymus said. “God is dead.”
Opinion: As soon as I read the synopsis for this book, I knew I had to read it. I have recently discovered books set in this era, but have only explored one author. Michael Livingston has not let me down, with his transformative novel blending fact and fantasy in such a way you find yourself swept back to the past before you realise your feet have even left the ground.
The plot is gripping. Research has gone into every element. Livingston has a close attention to detail and this is apparent with how the facts of those times are presented to the readers. But the authenticity about the era allows the fantastical elements to slip under the radar. His writing is confident and engaging, meaning you never stop to question whether a weapon of the Gods could have existed; you accept it.
Towards the latter half of the book, religion plays a key role. I felt that although the conversation and debate was needed to some extent to enhance the storyline, it did dwell for too long on reasons for God’s existence. It felt as if Livingston wanted to get his own view point across and was using his characters to do it.
It was not the religious element that caused the problem. But these lengthy debates – especially as they didn’t move the plot forward – undermined the tension and slowed the pacing down dramatically. Words could have been cut from these areas and no information would have been lost.
The characters themselves were easy to like. Juba came across as a little weak, but has the potential to develop in later books. Caesarion was everything you want in a dashing young hero; brave, determined, humble and empathetic and made it easy to wish for Rome to fail against Alexandria. Selene again has the chance for growth in a secondary novel while I grieved the loss of some of the characters at the end.
Livingston writes a thoroughly enjoyable tale of love and loss in a fast-paced and tense atmosphere where no one is safe. If you like things set in the Roman era and are prepared to let in a few fantasy elements along the way, then I thoroughly recommend this book and look forward to seeing the character’s progression in later novels.