I tried very hard to like this one. Set in ancient Rome, during the reign of Emperor Domitian, it tells the story of two doomed lovers, Thea and Arius, who struggle not just for freedom but also to save their very lives. Along the way, we get a tour of the Colosseum's deadly games, with plenty of descriptive gore and violence, and if that's not enough, Thea's and Arius' abuse at the hands of others is also lovingly described. There's also Domitian, who is clearly just as mad as previous Emperors, and Lepida, a slut of the first order who endlessly schemes and sleeps her way through all of Rome. Other characters are long-suffering, with no one except Lepida seeming to have a good time. Then there's another character Paulinus, who is essentially good, but lacks either the ballocks or spine to actually stand up for himself, Sabina, who is miracly cured, Julia the emperor's niece who's also off her rocker, and so on and so forth. Everyone in this one is either very good or very bad, but those are little flaws compared to some of the research errors in here -- most readers won't notice or care, but for me it was irritating as all get out. Modern idiom creeps in constantly, and the most hilarious error was when a character described being bundled up like a sack of potatoes. Please. (I really ought to make a shelf labeled The Potato Incident for those books which tend to have that innocent tuber appear when it's clear that potatoes didn't make it to Europe before 1500) In short, despite all of the promise and faint glimmers of real potential, this was a flunk for me. Just two stars and not recommended.
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