‘It was the murder that troubled him.’
With these uncharacteristically understated words, 15-year old Rodi, a spy in the service of the Byzantine Emperor, finds himself caught up in the murky and sometimes gruesome world of early seventh-century Italian court politics. Rodi needs courage beyond his years and nerves of the proverbial steel to navigate a perilous path to ensure, among other things, his own survival. Corrupt priests, eunuchs, children crying behind closed doors, dreams which may not be dreams, grisly cups fashioned from human heads, cats used for cruel princely entertainment… all these and more Rodi must encounter before grasping a full understanding of his mission.
The writing is tight, the dialogue lively and the plot moves at a smart pace. Blake clearly knows his history – as references to mirrors of polished bronze and correspondence aired in Greek and Latin attest – but it is rare to find such knowledge coupled with a flair for storytelling. This is a novel which will surely thrill other lovers of historical fiction too. I emerged not only relieved on behalf of Rodi, but delighted on a literary level – as well as having learned just a little bit more about a slice of history which I now feel is under-represented. I look forward to reading the other books in the series.
Review published on Amazon on the 4th April 2018
© 2018, richardblake.
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