Vanity and Valor: The Blood of Rome

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In R. Lynn’s debut novel (a well-designed e-book) set in ancient Rome, young Thaddius has recently become the leader of his family upon the death of his father. He’s facing a broad slate of new and heavy responsibilities—including perhaps becoming a magistrate or even joining the Senate—and this dismays him, because all he wants to do is continue chariot racing, a sport at which he’s the acknowledged master (the crowds in the street sing songs about him). But even more fundamental changes are in the air, especially when he and his beloved family slave, Simeon (a wonderfully drawn character), encounter a fiercely proud young woman named Sellah for sale in the slave market. They save her from the villainous Barachius, who also hates Thaddius for reasons of his own. Lynn’s narrative (especially its dialog) can be stiff at times, and Roman history buffs will notice minor gaffes here and there, but these are compensated by the book’s exciting action sequences and by Lynn’s appealingly unflinching examination of the brutalities of slavery. The process by which Thaddius matures is painful for everyone involved, but it feels very real. Recommended.

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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award

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