Conspiracies of Rome

Written by Richard Blake
Review by S Garside-Neville

608 AD. Young Englishman Aelric is interpreter and secretary to Maximin, a priest, who is part of the Roman mission to convert England to Christianity. But more texts are needed, and the pair travel to Rome to seek out suitable books. Aelric is amazed to find that the Romans don’t appreciate their glorious literature, but he wants to ensure that England is made the intellectual heart of the West. The ambitious plans go awry as murder and violence dog his footsteps. Are scheming politicians and diplomats hindering rather than helping? Is the church being honest? Who is ultimately responsible for the murder?

This is the first in a trilogy. Written in the first person, this book has a strong voice. Aelric is well drawn, and he comes across as quite a vain and greedy person, but someone who ultimately has a sense of fairness. Seventh-century Rome is a unusual subject for a novel. A great sense of decline and decay comes across. Rome is definitely past her best, and the Church and various factions are jostling for control. Sometimes the digression on religious points can get a bit wearing. However, it’s an enjoyable read, and I will certainly seek out the second part of the trilogy.