I must confess that while reading this I couldn’t help but wonder what one thing about the book really grabbed my attention; something to focus a review on. As I continued, I gradually realized that it was the whole understated approach in this narrative that was the one thing. Now that may sound strange but I found the author’s style to be subtle yes, but also descriptive and educational. Let me set up the story a little, the narrator is Cogidubnus a priest and King of the Regenses and who was elevated to Great King of Britain by Claudius. The point in the story where I saw through the subliminal like message of the text was Cogidubnus telling his audience of his first visit to Rome. The awe inspiring splendor of Rome as seen through the eyes of a wattle and thatch hut existence woke me up to the descriptive talents of the author.
The protagonist sees himself as a priest first even after Claudius elevates him. He always strives for a peaceful solution as this best pleases the gods, but there are times and events during his long reign that are far from peaceful. He not only has to deal with the likes of Caratacos and Boudicca but with mostly uncaring, stubborn Roman officials. There are exceptions to the avarice driven as Cogidubnus makes a lifelong friend in Vespasian and has a decent rapport with Claudius. I really enjoyed how Vespasian was introduced into the story, cleverly done.
The ebb and flow of the tale meanders back and forth from events in the early and middle parts of Cogidubnus reign as Great King to the present day governorship of Agricola, the death of Vespasian and Titus the new Emperor. It is an interesting time period and that brings me to another strong point of the narrative and that is; as you read this story you learn stuff. I suppose that is to be expected given that the author is a historian and scholar, he probably can’t help himself. 🙂 The depth of detail speaks of meticulous research and knowledge of the subject matter and is subtle in delivery. Not like my college history professor who would pace from one end of the room to the other showering us with his wisdom when he would stop and exclaim, ‘Oh this is important, write this down word for word.’
This is an enjoyable read. I rate it 4 stars.