The Philosopher Prince
Set in 355 AD, the book follows on an earlier novel by Waters, Cast Not the Day. It opens with Aquinus’s funeral at which two British nobles, Marcellus and Drusus, are present. As Marcellus is gathering his grandfather’s ashes into the urn, a group of riders appear, led by Faustus with a warrant from the Notary Paulus for their arrest, and they are taken to Gaul. Expecting to be taken before Paulus, they learn that he fled from Trier when the German barbarians crossed the Rhine and instead are to go to Paris. But things take a sudden turn for the better. In Paris they realise that they are not to be locked up to await whatever fate is in store for them but are given baths, new clothes, food and told that they are at liberty to return to Britain if they so wish. However their ‘host’, Eutherius, hopes that they will stay and meet Prince Julian, the Emperor’s nephew, who will shortly be arriving for the winter. This they do and decide to join him thus linking their paths closely to his.
Although it is quite possible to read this book as a separate entity, I found it difficult to get into, not having read the first book. There was nothing in the form of a foreword to tell me either what had gone before or why Marcellus and Drusus had been arrested.
I liked the use of the more common English names of places as although fairly familiar with the old Roman ones, it does help the reader to be instantly aware of where they are, geographically. The characterisation was good, although again, it would have been nice to know who was historically correct and who fictitious, and the story was told in a straightforward, uncluttered way.