The Praetorian and the Emperor’s List
Rod Warren’s exhaustively-researched and immensely readable debut novel, The Praetorian and the Emperor’s List, centers on two boys living in provincial southern Italy in AD 29.
Antonius, the son of a once-famous and now-retired tribune of the Roman emperor’s elite Praetorian Guard, spurns the life of a small-town vineyard-owner in favor of joining the Praetorians himself. When he comes of age, he and his friend, Marcus, set out for Rome to do just that.
This decision brings them into the dark and dangerously convoluted Rome of Tiberius Caesar and his infamous Praetorian commander (and, for a time, virtual co-emperor) Sejanus and his lieutenant Macro.
Warren’s book is buttressed with footnotes, end notes, maps, and glossaries, but at its heart it is a classic story of a boy’s coming-of-age and an I, Claudius-style look at the decadence and treachery at the heart of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.
Antonius and Marcus meet many of the era’s most famous historical figures, and Warren keeps his simple but powerful plot moving along at a straightforward pace. It is easy to look forward to more volumes in this series if they are all as good as this one.