CONCEPT: A History professor is whisked back in time to Rome; only a few years before it's about to fall; with his foresight he attempts to not only create a living for himself but, at a later point, to stop the fall of Rome
HISTORY SETTING: 6th century Italy; very interesting setup. I didn't know much about it and rarely is it covered except in passing as they focus on other parts of the world. DeCamp knows his material.
PACING: The story is only 260 pages long which is small for today's fantasy novels which go from 600 to 1000 pages. No particular story lasted a long time. Decamp would jump from conflict to conflict. In essence, it began with little problems, moving its way up and up to the bigger and more political ones. And, there are plenty. In fact, there are so many plots and intrigues and obstacles and conflicts, that it keeps moving along. Padway will solve one problem but then pick up at least one problem or more.
CONTEXT: Sprague knew his Roman History. There were several Historical points he factored into the story that allowed him to outthink his opponents. Moreover, I got a feel for the setting with the incense wafting out of a door, the togas, the smell of manure, the louse coming out of the maid's armpit . . . etc etc. Unlike some people, one felt they were truly living in this era. Sprague hit you with all of the senses: sight, smell, touch, sound.
OVERALL STRUCTURE: DeCamp is really good at his structure and surprises and pacing. Basically, I would divide this book up into three sections. The first part is laying down the ground work as Padway tries to figure out what has happened, to justify it, to make a living with the help of a merchant and open up a brandy sill. As high reps demand bribes, he begins to get involved in politics to a lesser extent. From there, he starts to expand his business and make friends. In the last third, which is probably half of the novel, he starts to run Rome. Puts the old emperor back on and uses him as sort of a puppet. Moves the capitol to Ravenna since that's one of the few spots which wasn't attacked by Goths. He wins the love of a Goth princess, dumps her to another man and then gets ready for several attacks upon Rome. Leads forces twice against Belisarius and then Bloody John.
WHY IT WORKED FOR ME: Other than the reasons stated above, I like Roman History and there were some very funny parts; especially in the dialogue!
FLAWS: Someone made the point that Padway was a little too ingenius at creating future inventions, as well as at maneuvering amongst all the political intrigues. There may be some validity to it but one who has studied such things wouldn't be hard pressed otherwise. It may have been a good idea to have shown that he knew of such things before since the typical professor wouldn't be able to make them nor perform political intrigues.