Master and God

Written by Lindsey Davis
Review by Chris James

More cloak-and-dagger than sword-and-sandals, Master and God follows Emperor Domitian’s Rome (AD 80-96) through the eyes of ‘a reluctant hero’, Gaius Vinius Clodianus, and Flavia Lucilla, an imperial freedwoman who becomes a hairdresser for the imperial family. The love affair between Lucilla and Clodianus features prominently in the story as well as the palace intrigue.

Like all of Lindsey Davis’s books, this is well researched and gripping enough to keep one coming back – so a pleasurable read. What I find particularly impressive is Davis’s ability to portray male characters, especially in the gorier moments when you might expect a female author to either refrain from explicit details or just simply present male behaviour in a way not believable to a man. Because of this, my favourite character became the centurion Decius Gracilis – a sword-and-sandals type through and through.

I do regretfully have some criticisms: there was a major overuse of semicolons, the book ironically loses pace at a time when events speed up towards the end, and I kept getting the urge to swat the fly on the front cover, as Domitian does in the book. The passage where the fly becomes the narrator seems rather out of place.

Readers of this genre would find great appeal in the story. Recommended.