Top critical review
A step down
on August 31, 2003
Overall, Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa series is as good as any historical fiction series going. However, having read all of the books in the series to date, this one is the weakest of the lot. Saylor does not give this one the richness of detail and historical context of the other novels. It feels rushed and not well thought out. Also, and most annoyingly, there is a substantial discontinuity between this book and the prior one in the series, "A Murder on the Appian Way". Saylor completely changes the background of the character Davus. Saylor's reasons for doing so are quite apparent but not convincing. This is a cardinal sin in a series where the general storyline and main characters are continuous and the books frequently contain cross-references. It is extremely jarring for longtime readers of the series to be asked to forget portions of a prior book.
Also, Saylor plays with fire (no pun intended) in the resolution of this book. Some readers may find the daring revelation at the climax to be inspired, but to me it is contrived and repetitive (weren't we on similar ground in "The Venus Throw"?).
The Gordianus books are a fine series of historical fiction and Saylor is a talented guy, but he can do better than this.