Numerius Vitellius Pavo is a slave and a witch’s curse protects him from permanent damage or death at the hands of his owner, a senator of Rome. Set in 376 AD, Christianity is on the rise and the Roman empire has crumbled a bit at the borders. Pavo finds himself freed only to join the border legions who face near-certain death.
Young Pavo was a likable chap, though a bit boring in a permanently beaten puppy kind of way. I never really grew attached to him, so this book probably had less impact on me than other readers who do become attached to Pavo. He has a buddy, Sura, who is always telling tall tales and they watch out for each other through out the story. It was a cute best buddy friendship. Once they join up as trainees, there’s all sorts of hazing the young recruits must endure.
I did enjoy the political intrigue going on behind the scenes, especially back in Rome. Emperor Valens has plenty to contend with between the rising Christian church, and Goths and Huns pushing against the Roman borders. These scenes made up perhaps a quarter of the book but I found them to be the most interesting.
The ladies are woefully under represented in this book. In fact, I do believe there are only two that get names, and one is a dead wife. The other, Felicia, is the love interest of Pavo. There’s a variety of other nameless bedwarmers, but sadly they don’t really add to the plot. I will say that the one sex scene was sweet and hot; nicely done!
Pavo is our hero of the story and he is at the crux of big things happening for the empire. And yet, I never really got that sense of big sweeping events hanging on a sword’s edge that I was hooping for. I am having a hard time putting my finger directly on it. The action scenes often came off as a bit flat to me, lacking drama or suspense. Maybe this is because I wasn’t particularly attached to Pavo.
I dived into this book truly expecting to love it. Ancient Roman historical fiction is one of my favorite niche genres. Plus the time of Emperor Valens and the rise of Christianity isn’t a section I have really studied, so I was looking forward to learning a bit as I enjoyed this fiction. I was surprised and saddened this book was only so-so for me.
I received this audiobook from the author (via the Audiobook BlastFacebook page) at no cost in exchange for an honest review.
The Narration: Simon Whistler did a pretty good job. He had a variety of accents as called for and had passable female voices for the few times a woman uttered a line. He does have the English accent (and since this is an English production that is quite proper) and for some words my American brain had to puzzle out what he said (such as the word ‘grimace’). Also, for the longest time I thought the main character’s name was Parvo instead of Pavo because I hear a soft R in the name when Whistler says it. Parvo is a nasty terminal dog disease here in the States, so that kept putting an image in my head every time I heard it.