Fantastic characterisation, depth of historical context, and a startlingly bittersweet ending. Of course I had to give this novel of Dark Ages Rome 5 stars!
Aelric (whom the Romans dub Alaric) is a ravishingly handsome (his own words!) young Saxon from Britain. He is vain, greedy, has a talent for stumbling into trouble, has a hunger for ancient pagan literature, and is quite regularly sexist. Despite the aforegoing, his heart is (mostly) in the right place. This, and his passion for saving ancient manuscripts, redeem him from complete anti-hero-hood. In fact, Aelric’s fits of vanity and the wealth of historical context were probably the two things I enjoyed most about this murder mystery/ conspiracy plot.
Just occasionally, Blake’s love of historical detail got a tinsy bit tedious. The example that springs to mind is the lecture on papyrus. But, fear not, Blake does not stray into such info dump on a regular basis.
Blake brings Dark Ages Rome to vivid (or should I say ‘gloomy’) and definitely smelly life. Wonderful to read about, but I’d hate to have lived there!
Reviewed by Venetia Green on the 14th April 2015
© 2016 – 2017, richardblake.
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