The Fire Waker

Written by Ben Pastor
Review by Patrika Salmon

The second in what, judging by the last page, is intended to be a series, The Fire Waker should have everything going for it. It’s a fascinating period in the Roman Empire’s history. Hero Aelius Sparianus is Emperor Diocletian’s historian (and spy), plus there’s the ‘hunt the Christian’ theme, a mystery of rebirth from death, murders, details of the life of a Roman soldier, and frontier battles. So why did I sigh for a touch of Lindsey Davis?

It’s Pastor’s writing style. There’s an odd choice of words. Our hero smirks and simpers; there are men ‘standing on horseback’. The viewpoint bounces unexpectedly, and Aelius Sparianus is neither outsider-observer giving incisive insights to the reader, nor an emotionally involved, close-viewpoint character drawing the reader to him. He falls between the two and sometimes seems a cold fish. The plot is good, but I couldn’t care for our hero and found the villain a far more interesting character.

I’m sure many people will enjoy this novel, but reading is a matter of personal preferences, and Ben Pastor’s way of writing spoiled the story for me.