***ARC received from San Francisco Book Review in exchange for an honest review***
In 88 B.C., it seems as if the entire ancient world is at war. In the west, the Italian states are rebelling against Rome; in the east, Mithridates is marching through and conquering the Roman Asian provinces. Even in the relatively calm Alexandria, a coup has brought a new Pharaoh to power and chaos to the streets. The young Gordianus has been waiting out the chaos in Alexandria, with Bethesda, when he gets a cryptic message from his former tutor and friend, Antipater. Now in Ephesus, as part of Mithridates’ entourage, Antipater seems to think that his life is in imminent danger.
To rescue him, Gordianus concocts a daring, even foolhardy, scheme to go “behind enemy lines” and bring Antipater to safety. But there are powerful, and deadly forces, at work here, which have their own plans for Gordianus. Not entirely sure whether he’s a player or a pawn, Gordianus must unravel the mystery behind the message if he’s to save himself and the people he holds most dear.
I love historical fiction that makes me what to learn more about history. Steven Saylor has brought the ancient world to life in a way history books never can. History is more than just names and dates of battles; it’s the people, the emotions, the absolute brutality of that time. Meticulously detailed, Saylor effortlessly interweaves historical and fictional characters with true historical events. It is easy to envision the opulence of the nobility and the squalor of the Roman refugees through the intense narrative. By focusing on such a tumultuous time period in ancient history, the author piques the readers interest to find out more about the events and historical figures (at least this reader’s interest). Some of the passages, the descriptions of the torture inflicted on Roman prisoners, are difficult to get through simply because they are so vividly (and accurately) described.
Through the inclusion of diary segments from Anitpater, Gordianus’ mentor and tutor, the author also manages to add personal narrative and reflection to the time period. One passage more than any stuck out to me, drawing parallels to more recent history.
“A deliberate campaign of deriding and belittling the Romans has been going on, making them not only objects of fear and loathing, but also of ridicule. They have been set apart, not only by having been driven from their homes and forced to seek sanctuary, but by such measures as the degree that they must wear the toga – ostensibly so that decent folk can see these thieves and rapists coming and protect themselves.”
History is bound to repeat itself.
I was initially horrified to learn that this was book 14 written by Steven Saylor with Gordianus the Finder as the main character. However, Wrath of the Furies is the third book in Steven Saylor’s Novels of Ancient Rome series, a prequel series to his Roma sub Rosa series, and is easily read as a stand-alone book. Any references the author makes to previous situations do not leave the reader confused or left in the dark, but rather leaves the reader wanting to find out exactly what happened. A superb read for anyone with a modicum of interest in history.