the greatest compliment to Gillespie's first novel is that at 800
pages, the book isn't too long. Spanning the years between
A.D. 52--shortly before Nero' accession--and Nerva's accession in
96, the novel invokes tribal warfare, two tyrants, Domitian's terror,
gladiatorial spectacles, blood vengeance, imperial intrigues, and
a mythic love.
At the center is Auriane,
the daughter of a Chattian chieftain, fated to lead her tribe against
Rome but also to disgrace it by murdering her father. On the other
side of the Alps is Marcus Julianus, a philosophically disposed
nobleman trying to salvage justice under the despotic Nero and Domitian.
Marcus is haunted by his late father's vague records of a German
warrior maid, and the two finally meet when Auriane is captured
in Domitian's Chattian campaign.
For anyone interested in this
tumultuous period of Roman despotism and Germanic tribes, Gillespie's
epic is an intriguing recording of everyday detail, national issues,
and, more impressively, overarching influences of religion and psychology.