Rating: 5 stars out of 5
NR Walker and Joel Leslie have become my favorite duo as they bring us the kind of superb entertainment I once saw on the big screen in my younger years—Lawrence of Arabia comes to mind. This story is a sweeping saga worthy of the big screen but more readily portable as all one needs is a phone app to get lost in the glory days of Rome.
One of the best lanistas—gladiator trainers—in Rome, Quintus Furius Varus is “tall and strong in build, fearsome in manner, and sharp of wit.” Senator Servius Augendus seeks personal guards, so he comes to Quintus with an offer he literally cannot refuse, and Quintus ends up in Neapolis, contracted not only as a trainer of guards, but head of those assigned to protect Servius. He’s told the contract period is limited, so once the threat is removed, Quintus can go home to his gladiators and resume his peaceful existence.
Kaeso Agorix was abducted from Iberia and brought to Rome as a slave. Purchased by Servius, he’s handed over to Quintus to train. Their attraction is immediate and intense, and he’s given to Quintus as a personal slave for as long as Quintus is in Servius’s employ. When Quintus discovers Servius’s treachery and plot to gain power, not only is Quintus’s life in danger, but also the lives of Kaeso and the other gladiators. What follows is a complex plot of assassination and treachery and involves not only Quintus and his gladiators, but also Servius and his slaves, and the emperor and his royal guard, the praetorian.
This story is very long and very, very complex with characters who have Ancient Roman names, so it takes time to get to know each one, and it takes a while to understand the politics and the atmosphere of the times. That all being said—it is time well-spent. A grand saga, created by the fertile imagination of NR Walker and brought to life by the brilliant and highly talented Joel Leslie, the character development is outstanding in this large cast of mighty Roman warriors and deceitful Roman politicians. Joel is most definitely a man of a thousand voices in this one. How he managed to pronounce each name, give the character a different voice, and keep up with the pace of the story is beyond me. He and the author made this interesting and exciting and the last chapters fly by quickly. The outcome is surprising and very satisfying. I very highly recommend this to all lovers of a grand adventure, MM romance, and of course, history buffs.
The cover features a Roman guard, holding sword and shield, on the battlefield with the sun coming up behind him. Beautifully done, it’s symbolic of the new guard—the nova praetorian.
Listening Length: 12 hours and 24 minutes
Program Type: Audiobook
Publisher: Love Lane Books Ltd.
Audible.com Release Date: August 27, 2019
Whispersync for Voice: Ready
Language: English, English