This is a book that’s right in my wheelhouse (historical fiction) using real people from the time period to tell the story. It’s book one of The Sertorius Scrolls, telling the story from the perspective of Quintus Sertorius and, occasionally, his lifelong friend, Lucius Hirtuleius.
Sertorius (It’s common to refer to people by their family name, or cognomen, in Ancient Rome) had grown up the son of a highly respected farmer and administrator of Nursia, the family’s village outside of Rome. His father served as a liason to Nursia’s patron in Rome, a Senator by the name of Caepio. The elder Sertorius passed away when Quintus was seventeen, leaving his older brother, Titus, to head off to Rome to be trained in the political world by the Caepio family, known collectively as the Caepiones. When Titus changes his mind and heads off to war as a member of the Roman military, it falls to Quintus to take his place with the Caepiones. Here, Quintus’ eyes are opened to a world in Rome that is far, far different than the one he knew in Nursia.
What I Liked
Obviously, I loved being totally immersed in the history of the time period, which covers the seeds of the end of the Roman Republic: the rebellions begun by Gaius Marius, who would later seize control of Rome and institute change by force. The author succeeded in immersing me in this world, especially in making Rome in all of its filthy glory come to life (literally: the place was not known for its pristine streets and walkways. Don’t look up if you’re walking under the windows and doors). You’ll likely feel as though you’re in the domus (house) of the Caepiones, or marching with the soldiers on the field of battle
What to Be Aware Of
For the uninitiated, a little primer on Roman living becomes necessary. Davis works this into the places they belong as they come up in the story, so it’s not an info-dump at all. I really enjoy the fact that he makes it so easy for the layperson to get immersed in the story by not holding everything up to explain the minutiae of the world.
Additionally, this being Rome, expect violence. Once the story shifts to the soldiers in the field, there is promise of swords getting wet, and rest assured it will deliver. Proceed with caution if you’re squeamish.
If you’re into watching history come to life (like me), then give this book (and series) a chance. I’ll be digging into its sequel, The Noise of War, in short order. We history nerds are a happy few, so when a book like this comes along, it’s quite notable. Personally, I enjoyed it immensely. Try it out for yourself and let me know what you think!