**Thank you to Del Rey Spectra, a part of Random House, and NetGalley for providing me with a digital ARC copy of this book for review**
Alright, this book pulled a fast one on me. It took me a couple days of sporadic reading to finish but, I’ll be honest, for the entire first quarter of this book I wasn’t certain I was going to enjoy it. Here’s why: the first quarter — really the first third — of this novel felt very much like a “Dances with Wolves” meets the Roman Legion story. I was pretty much dead certain I knew exactly how it was going to end, and I found that frustrating, which meant my reading pace slowed down.
And then something happened. I’m not sure exactly where or when it happened, but something did happen: I fell in love with this book. Perhaps I just needed time to fall into the cadence of the story, maybe I just needed to take a step back from it for a day, but all of the sudden I was in — and I tore through the rest of this story. I think I can chalk it up to one big thing: character. Marcellinus, our Roman protagonist, is alright (if not a little conventional) on his own, but it is in interaction with the child characters of the novel that he truly shines and develops. I fell in love with the children and with every moment Marcellinus spent with them. These are the best moments of the novel.
It’s amazing that a novel that could have so easily derailed and become utterly generic maintains its brilliant alternate history plot while forging the phenomenal characters that it does. While the ending felt a little abrupt, I found out after finishing it is because there are to be more books following this character. EXCELLENT! I eagerly await them.
This book was gritty, brutal, and hypnotically beautiful. I recommend it highly as a piece of compelling, well-written, and thoroughly researched fiction.