Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Rome Rome: The Art Of War
by M. C. Scott

Supplied for review by Random HouseNew Zealand

Reviewed By: Jacqui Smith

First, this isn’t actually either science fiction or fantasy; it’s plain historical fiction. That said, if you are fond of historical fantasy, or have an interest in ancient Rome, you probably will enjoy this novel as much as I did.

It’s the fourth and last of a series, but that’s hardly a problem – the author quickly orientates the reader in the historical background, firmly in the latter months of AD 69, the infamous Year of Four Emperors. Now, this is one of those historical periods we call the "fun bits", the bits they don’t teach you about in school. This is the last of four books, so it begins with Vitellius on the throne in Rome and Vespasian in Judaea, where he is promptly declared Imperator. It isn’t a history text though, but a novel.

The author weaves her weft of fictional events and characters through the warp of actual historical events to create a whole cloth, and that with an intricate pattern. Her backgrounds are intricate and detailed – I doubt I’ll ever forget her description of the exterior of a Roman brothel! Her characters are convoluted, fascinating, and their motives are often complicated - mainly because about half of them are spies for one faction or the other. Or both.

One method the author uses to draw the reader into the characters is to write in the first person, but switching from person to person as the chapter changes. This can be a bit disorientating, and one does have to take note of the chapter header, but in this case it actually worked. Mostly. I would have appreciated a list of dramatis personae to help me keep track.

So, what you have is complex historical fiction with a strong military espionage flavour set in one of ancient Rome’s most interesting times. If that appeals, you’ll find this an excellent read.

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