The Philosopher Prince
Waters’ sequel to Cast Not the Day is set between 355 and 361 A.D., and finds the characters of Drusus and Marcellus caught up in violence and terror as they are accused of treason against the unstable Roman Emperor Constantius. Marcellus’ grandfather has died in Britain, and the two young men, constant companions and lovers, are seized as traitors and taken into custody on the orders of the villainous notary Paulus. Transported to Paris, by a twist of fate they meet the emperor’s nephew, Julian, who has been sent west to Gaul to keep the Germans in check across the Rhine and establish a peaceful government. Julian, an Athens-educated scholar, attempts to carry out his uncle’s orders for the region, but he quickly realizes that there are spies everywhere, and that the brutal Constantius’ real intention is to utterly destroy him. Drusus and Marcellus vow to help the well-liked prince achieve his goals, but they find themselves battling against decadent courtiers, grasping administrators, and a fickle military, with circumstances and people manipulated by the tyrannical and jealous emperor.
The author has done an excellent job in portraying life during the later Roman period, a world filled with dirt and toil and luxury and scandal, of marriages made for political advantages, horrible tortures and judicial murders, and where your own family members could be your greatest enemies. Waters manages to give life to his varied cast of characters: Marcellus, Drusus, and Julian (known in history as the “Apostate”) are especially sympathetic and credible, and he provides a solid, readable story with plenty of action, suspense, and intrigue. I found it an absorbing and a generally satisfying read.