This is the sequel to MacDougall’s successful debut novel, Romanitas, but sadly I don’t think it makes much sense unless you have read that book first. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed the first book and this one also.
Marcus Novius, the heir to the empire, suddenly finds himself regent, and must cope with conspiracy within the empire from his ambitious cousin Drusus, who is desperate to be emperor, and hostile forces without. But Marcus is not alone, and when Drusus seems to have succeeded, he is aided by his friends as the world teeters on the brink of a global conflagration.
MacDougall develops the characters she introduced in Romanitas – the story is set three years after that book – and they are growing up fast. They are written with a deft touch that renders even the villains believable.
The background cannot be faulted – MacDougall clearly knows her stuff, but while I love alternate universe novels here, I’m really not sure that I quite buy the vision – I can’t help but feel this is really just ancient Romans with modern technology. However, MacDougall has created a workable and believable alternate history for the world from the time of Marcus Aurelius (her break point with our history) and has written a tense political thriller that I thoroughly recommend.