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OK, but not great
on 7 June 2013
This extended short story tells of the Crossroads Brotherhood in the South Quirinal district of Ancient Rome. Readers of the Vespassian series by the same author will be familiar with Vespassian's sidekick, Magnus, and this describes his "day job" in the days before Vespassian first arrives in Rome; In fact the last few lines describe Magnus approaching Vespassian's family in order to offer "protection".
The story is competent as far as it goes, and provides an interesting view of life in Ancient Rome if you weren't one of the ruling classes. Magus has a morality of his own, but this must be tempered with the knowledge that moraility in that pagan society was very different to 21st century UK. In terms of providing a back stroy for Magnus it doesn't really shed any more light than the descriptions in the Vespassian novels. Magnus's past is hinted at, but how he came to be the patronus of a Crossroads Brotherhood isn't really covered. Given that few such people died in their sleep we are left to assume the worst.
An adequate read if you are on a short haul flight, but it isn't really absorbing enough to stand alone.