This book, historically, is set in the period of early Roman Republic during the murder of Tiberius Gracchus over his land reform program. The author..Show More » then combines various tales from the Illyrian wars as his setting for one of his characters. The book has two main character, Senator Lucius whom he makes the murderer of Gracchus and the great General Aulus Macedonicus who will die in a fight with Illyrians.
This books sets up the political and military adventures of the two main character and introduce what will be the stars of the later books in the series - the the sons of the Aulus and Lucius. Both men are standins for the political and military symbols of the Republics - Aulus their greatest general and Lucius the most powerful Senator.
The prolog ties Aulus and Lucius together by a visit to the Sybilline cave and a prophcy made to the two boys. This book and later books is about the fulfillment of that prophecy.
The book gives a good picture of the policial machinations in Rome of the time and how both men wielded power. The scene in the Senate where Aulus swears that Lucius did not murder Tiberius is very powerful indeed.
For the sake of the story several anachronisms are introduced. I really doubt if Aulus or any Roman General would take his wife on Campaign in Gaul. But of course this is done so that the wife, Claudia, can be captured and impregnated by the Gallic Priest Brennos and then giver birth to a major character in the laster novels. Had this happened in reality a Roman General would have killed his wife or had her kill herfself rather than bear the child of a barbarin. So I found that whole bit about Claudia and her son by Brennos truly unbelievable -- even as a plot device it ranks pretty low.
But that aside the story is an excellent set up for the following two books which deal with the offspring of these two men.
This is an exciting book and very well read. Despite the anachronisms it does not ruin the story for the reader, although I really hated to see the death of Aulus who was my favorite character..
Anyone interested in historical fiction set in Rome will not want to miss this book. What is so interesting is that so many books are set in Imperial times, it is nice to find one set in the early days of the Republic.