on 1 June 2009
The only thing that prevents me from giving this story 5 stars is that I found it unnecessarily violent at times, though I appreciate the world of Ancient Rome was a violent place, I would have liked it to be toned down. That aside, this is a really good story with a great central character. Claudia is a poor, young woman who has experienced much hardship in her short life and this has led her to become a spy for the Emperor. All she has is her morals and her wits and has to really use the latter to survive in such an ignorant and dark place as Rome is depicted, in the 4th century. But it isn't just the characterisation that's good. This book has really good pace, doesn't drag on and the plot doesn't disappoint either. It's a great read and I recommend it to anyone who loves a good mystery.
Paul Doherty is the consummate professional when it comes to writing historical novels. I for one do not know how he can be so prolific with his offering of books and yet make sure that each of them is well researched. Whether they be 13th, 14th, or fifteenth century they are always true to the period. He also writes about Ancient Egypt and Alexander the Great. Paul Doherty has the rare talent of making you feel as though you are there, be it medieval England, or battling with Alexander. The sounds and smells of the period seem to waft from the pages of his books. He has now turned his attention to Ancient Rome and this is the second book in the series.
313 AD. At the dawn of the fourth century, the Roman empire is beset by economic problems, barbarian incursions and religious divides. After a series of tyrannical rulers, Emperor Diocletian has divided the empire into east and west. Now, with Constantine's victory over Maxentius in the west, Rome finally appears to be emerging from its turbulent past. But instead of enjoying the fruits of his victory, Emperor Constantine is in trouble. In order to consolidate his power and under the guidance of his mother Helena, he plans to harness the power of the increasingly influential Christian Church. Then a series of murders brings his loyalties into question. The emperor frequents courtesans from the Guild of Aphrodite, three of whom have been found dead - all with crosses etched on their foreheads and each cheek. In order to protect her son's future, Helena, aided by the priest Anastasius, calls upon the service of an 'agente in rebus politicis' - or spy. Claudia is the niece of a tavern-owner and is placed as a wine-server in Constantine's household. But Claudia has secret motives of her own...