This is the latest account in the doings of Prefect Cato and Centurion Macro, soldiers in the Roman army in the 1st century A.D. A slave rebellion having broken out in Crete, they were sent to sort it out and arrest the main instigator, Ajax the gladiator, who was himself taken as a slave in boyhood after his father was crucified for piracy. Ajax escaped and began to harrow the coast of Egypt, now a Roman province, carefully laying the blame on Cato and Macro. In their efforts to hunt him down and arrest him, Cato and Macro find themselves involved with the new Roman navy both along the coast and eventually up the Nile to Diospolis Magna (Luxor), where there is also trouble with a Nubian invasion across the frontier, south of modern day Aswan, led by Prince Talmis.
I have read and enjoyed one or two of the other books in this series, and this one did not disappoint. The characters live and breathe, and the action is fast paced, but at the same time Simon Scarrow manages to seamlessly impart a lot of information about the Roman army and empire of the time. The pages turn themselves, sadly to the detriment of other jobs that need to be done!
In the end-notes Bernard Cornwell is quoted as saying, ‘I really don’t need this kind of competition’ – a discerning comment.