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OK but not Great
on 22 July 2014
Grizzled veteran of the Rhine campaigns Macro, optio of the 2nd Legion, is sent to Rome to receive an award for bravery. But he gets involved in politics - a series of plots by the Emperor Claudius' freedmen to punish Pavo, the son of an aristocratic general executed for disloyalty to Claudius. Pavo is demoted to slave gladiator and forced to fight for his life in the arena. Meanwhile Macro is forced to train him.
According to the blurb, this book started as five separate short novellas, which probably accounts for its bittiness. Pavo wins and keeps winning, but gets no further forward. Macro too wants to be sent back to the legion, ideally with a promotion to centurion, but that doesn't happen either.
Apart from that? It's OK but not great. If you are a fan of gladiatorial combat, maybe you will like it better than me. The training, the self doubt, the aggressive self aggrandisement all resemble modern boxing, at least as perceived by an outsider like me. But I wouldn't want to watch it, and neither did the Emperor Claudius, a bookish introvert according to Suetonius.