“[C]haracters are a refraction of the people we base them on, rather than a direct reflection,” writes author James Mace in the introduction to his well-researched and well-charactered historical novella, Empire Betrayed. Historical fiction might also be viewed as a refraction of the past, but the image created in this novella is thoroughly convincing both in research and execution.
As Prefect Sejanus plots to overthrow Tiberius Caesar, Tribune Aulus Nautius Cursor returns from war and finds himself thrust into the grimier battles of politics. Character descriptions are filled with detail and background, giving a strong visual feel to the writing. Obscure aspects of Roman culture—for example “wheeled traffic was only permitted on the streets of Rome at night”—combine with accurate history, and amply complete geography, to make this a compelling read. Meanwhile interesting quotes remind readers that the dark world of the past is not so far away. “Rome is no longer a state of free speech and thought,” says one character. And deeds done for good reason have dark consequences when law trumps morality.
Complex details may make this a fairly slow read, but they add a depth and conviction that offers a truly compelling and haunting insight into the politics of Caesar’s Rome. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone curious to learn more of the Caesars and their world.
Disclosure: I received a free ecopy of this novella during the author’s tour and I apologize for being late posting my honest review.
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