Nic enjoys training as a charioteer—not that he has a choice—for his grandfather, Radulf, but the uneasy family détente is shattered when Nic learns the Praetors have taken his mother hostage in Volume 2 of this series set in Imperial Rome’s turbulent third century.
Believing Nic has the key to finding a magical amulet, the Malice of Mars, the Praetors use his mother as leverage to force him to turn it over to them, thereby giving an edge to their candidate, Diana, in a celestial civil war. Radulf insists Nic help him acquire the amulet to ensure the destruction of Rome. Nic just wants to free his mother and reunite his family, albeit on his own non-negotiable terms: he won’t sacrifice the people and city he loves. Nic is certain he doesn’t have the key; or does he? He has loyal allies—younger sister Livia, love interest Aurelia, friend Crispus, and the unicorn Callistus—but his opponents number just about every power broker in Imperial Rome. Nic is equally appealing this time around: cheerfully set on his goals yet brutally realistic about the poor odds of success. If Nic’s “act first-think later” M.O. gets him in trouble, it also gets him out of it—temporarily, anyway.
Fast-moving fun with broad audience appeal, especially recommended for reluctant readers, Rick Riordan fans, and pedal-to-the-metal adventure aficionados. (Historical fantasy. 10-14)