In ancient Rome, a playwright accused of plotting against the emperor finds refuge with a secret group of Christians in this adventure novel.
Domitian, emperor of Rome, was born under a bad sign: his death is foretold in the stars, down to the day and hour. Cruel and paranoid, Domitian names himself Lord and God, feeling especially threatened by Christians, who refuse to worship him. Now, six months before the emperor’s predicted death, a secret Christian organization called the Dominium Dei (Rule of God) has been working to bring about the prophecy, harassing Domitian with espionage, kidnapping, and assassination of his officials, such as his chief astrologer. The playwright Athanasius of Athens, meanwhile, just wants to earn acclaim for his work and the love of beautiful Helena, a model for sculptors. But his life overturns when he’s falsely accused of being Chiron, “the most dangerous man in the world,” mastermind of the Dei. Athanasius is condemned to die in the arena—but, with help from unexpected benefactors, he barely escapes. He’s given a mission that takes him from Rome to John of Patmos—the last apostle—and to Asia Minor and a hidden underground Christian refuge. Who are the Dei and who is Chiron? Can Athanasius stop a war between Rome and the Church? Greanias (The War Cloud, 2016, etc.) writes an intelligent, fast-moving historical novel with nonstop action, narrow escapes, and violent encounters, as well as much food for thought. The ancient world comes alive in well-chosen details, from the mundane to the arcana of spycraft, codes, and disguises. Greasias’ characterization is vivid even for minor figures and especially so for Athanasius. As a playwright, for example, he dislikes the Book of Revelations for its “deus ex machina return of Jesus at the end of history”; he goes through a believable personal struggle and transformation over the tale’s course. The author also smartly illuminates the religious, philosophical, historical, and even economic issues that underpin the story, while never letting the pace lag.
A skillful, exciting blend of history, action, and drama set in the ancient world.