To Abandon Rome: AD 593 (Tribonian Trilogy Book 2)

Written by Vann Turner
Review by Vicki Kondelik

Vann Turner’s To Abandon Rome brings to life a period of Roman history that is unfamiliar to me. In 593 AD, the Lombard King threatens to lay siege to Rome. Titus Tribonius, a Roman who was once chief magistrate to the Lombard King, has been banished and forced to work as a brickmaker in Rome. Later, he is appointed to a minor office in the city and becomes very popular because of his sympathy for the common people. He lives in a chaste relationship with Adria, an unmarried musician in her thirties who loves Titus, even though he is faithful to his wife, who remains on his estate near Verona. When Titus receives a letter from his wife, telling him that the Lombard King’s Master of Horse has raped her, he vows revenge. The Lombard King meets with him in secret and tells him if he rallies the people to the Lombards’ side, he will help him get his revenge. But Pope Gregory, who supports the Byzantine Emperor even though he has done nothing to help Rome, entrusts Titus with the city’s defense against the Lombards. Titus is torn between his loyalty to Rome and his desire for revenge.

This is a sequel to Turner’s previous novel, To Forestall the Darkness, but can be read on its own. It made me want to read the previous book, and to read more about this period of history. This is a fascinating time, when Rome had been Christian for a long time, but many people, including Titus, secretly adhere to pagan beliefs, and Pope Gregory has given much power to the Archdeacon, who frowns on public entertainment and wants people to repent their sins. Turner’s writing is modern in tone, and somewhat reminiscent of Lindsey Davis, whose writing I enjoy.