Shards of Heaven

Written by Michael Livingston
Review by Val Jensen

44 BCE: Rome is divided and Julius Caesar is dead. Two contenders – Octavian, grandnephew and adopted son of Caesar, and Mark Antony, Caesar’s finest general and lover of Caesar’s widow, Cleopatra – vie for control. They both raise armies and eventually clash in the epic Battle of Actium. The playing field, however, is skewed. Octavian employs a secret weapon – a divine weapon – the Trident of Poseidon. Octavian’s adopted brother, Juba, a Numidian prince, has discovered this Shard of Heaven on a quest and has learned to wield its divine power. To oppose Octavian and Juba is Caesarion, living heir of Caesar. Together with his scholarly mentor, Didymus, they search to discover the remaining Shards before Octavian collects them all and becomes truly unstoppable.

Livingston, in his debut novel, succeeds in bringing a fantastical element to an already riveting time in history, offering a unique blend of historical fact and compelling fiction. From the insatiable ambition of Octavian, to the sweet confidence of Cleopatra’s daughter, Selene, the characters in this debut novel are complex and fun to follow. I personally loved the hulky and ever-reliable praetorian, Pullo.

Narrated in third-person omniscient, the story jumps perspectives between five or six characters, but only managed to confuse me a couple times. There was some unnecessary detail towards the beginning which initially hurt the flow for me. It became a page turner towards the middle with the Battle of Actium, and the fantastical elements became more involved. Overall, it’s great fun, especially for those interested in Egyptian and early Roman history with a touch of the Old Testament.