This is the sixth in Alison Morton’s alternative history series set in Roma Nova—a recent-history world in which a remnant of the Roman empire has survived. By this stage the key characters are already well developed, so it is even more of an action adventure than the earlier books. That said, I found the depiction of the teenage girl, who becomes empress by hereditary default when she is more of an age to be out partying with her friends, particularly sensitive and moving.
The book, though, is more about Roma Nova’s society as a whole than about individuals, and about this nation’s place in and relationship with the world. Accordingly, there is a vast cast of characters ranging across several countries, including my native Britain. (I loved the episodes set there, with echoes of James Bond.) This is sufficiently complex to require a dramatis personae.
Retalio is a fitting end to a series that has doubled in size, like bread dough left to prove, from an initial planned trilogy to six books. I can’t help wondering whether the ending has been left slightly open to allow the author to return to familiar territory. I hope so. Either way, I will look forward to seeing what’s next from this accomplished novelist.