Masters of Rome (Rise of Emperors)

Written by Gordon Doherty Simon Turney
Review by Martin Bourne

Masters of Rome is the second in the series The Rise of the Emperors. The story picks up from the previous Sons of Rome in December of AD 308. It follows the jockeying for position and power in the later Roman Western Empire between Maxentius, the last pagan emperor, and the better-known Constantine the Great.

As before, the chapters alternate between each protagonist’s viewpoint, and the authors split the prose, one telling Maxentius’s story and the other Constantine’s. They have similar writing styles, so the transitions are quite seamless.

The authors’ interpretation of the characters is that Maxentius is a bookish, intellectual traditionalist who is struggling to reconcile too many divergent issues, both political and personal. Constantine is a rather insecure soldierly type, chiefly motivated by a desire to prevent more of the family tragedies that marred his early life. It is all beautifully done and really has you turning the pages to find out what is going to happen next. The only problem is that not very much actually does happen. Of course, the authors are constrained by historical fact, but there is less focus on the antagonists in this instalment, and therefore the assorted conflicts are more colourless. Nonetheless, I’m definitely looking forward to book 3!