Yes, it’s true. Lowly Bookworm is now public. And before I get dismissed as a review of children’s books only, I had better put in one of my previously published efforts. This is from Buzz.
I must remember not to read the publisher’s publicity before reading the book for myself. From the promotional material, I imagined a fantasy tale about supernatural powers manipulating humans throughout history for their own devious ends. Recently I finished Sara Douglass’s excellent Troy Game series with just exactly that theme, and I was ready for more.
And what I got was a historical novel. Not that there is anything wrong with historical fiction. It’s just that I was led astray by a publicist and to that I object.
Emperor is set in the mid to late Roman Empire. It begins in 4 BC during the time of Tiberius, and ends with the Saxon invasion of
England. In 4 BC a Celtic woman in the pains of childbirth, starts uttering a prophecy in Latin, a language she has never even heard before. Fortunately, one member of the family in attendance at the birth speaks Latin and records her words. They appear to be a prophecy, but to the farming family, it means nothing.
Like all good prophecies, this one is in obscure verse full of doublespeak and symbolism. There is even an acrostic word puzzle included for a little extra challenge. But eventually, as the events foretold begin to unfold, the descendent of the original recorder begins to make sense of three lines.
It turns out that the prophecy is about three events in early English history, the invasion of England by the Romans under Claudius, the building of Hadrian’s Wall, and the Christianisation of the Empire under
Constantine. Descendents of the Celtic woman and the prophecy recorder play a small but important part in each of these events.
Supernatural powers? I could find nothing but the occasional reference to ‘The Weavers’ almost as though they were a metaphorical reference to whatever powers control human destiny.
But is it a good read? Definitely. I love Roman history. And this book sweeps the reader up in the grand saga of the Roman Empire, even if it is set in
England. The characters are strong, believable and right for their time.
But I was annoyed in the last page when the new prophecy (again during childbirth) was spoken, this time in Saxon. Baxter just identified what was happening and stopped. I for one would love to puzzle on the meaning of the second prophecy before the next book is released.