|Note: This was a Publisher's Weekly "starred" review.|
Probably 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.