1 Stars Out Of 5
Overwhelming Violence Made this Distasteful
August 30, 2012
Giving a summary of this novel is difficult. None of the plot threads begun in the first novel were developed enough in the second to give the feeling of a story, a continuation of a story, or anything other than a long, drawn out coda. Almost all of the characters end this novel where they started. Vitas, the gladiator, still has no idea what he thinks or where his wife is. His brother is still doing the slave-hunter thing, tracking down John and his brother. Sophia, Vitas' wife, still thinks her husband is dead and is on the run. John, the apostle, spends most of his time below decks on a ship. Nero is still a psychopathic sociopath (or is that a sociopathic psychopath?). Maglorious is still searching for his children in Jerusalem, which is still on the brink of war. In short: The bad guys are still bad, and the good guys are still around - though they aren't doing much.
Nothing significant enough happens to justify the nearly four-hundred pages this book consists of.
Regardless of that, I waded past all the Roman, Greek, and Jewish names, muddled my way through the authors' usage of the Roman days of the week, the Jewish monthly calendar, and the Latin hours of the day, and found myself at the end of this novel with nothing but a bad taste in my mouth.
I don't enjoy gore or bloodlust. Everyone and everything is fair game for violence and torture in this novel: pregnant women, children, animals, the handicapped, you name it. Scene after scene with disembowelments, mutilations, murders, and then the descriptions of the corpses left behind. The majority of these scenes have nothing to do with plot or character development. Of the presumably justifiable scenes, many were unnecessarily disturbing. Early in the novel, a scene depicting how Nero had a young boy castrated so that Nero could marry the boy while another boy was drowned in the garden pond made me ill. Reading about how parents are threatened by receiving an ear cut off the head of their recently kidnapped children, how can a scene like that do anything other than encourage me to put this novel down? I hung in there to the end and have nothing to show for it thanks to weak plot development. If this book were filmed, it would receive an R rating, and maybe an X rating as well if you included the scenes between the prostitutes and the various Romans. If the authors wanted to convince me the ancient Roman empire was steeped in evil, then they've done that with aplomb. However, if they had tempered their zeal, it would have made for a much more enjoyable novel. Sharp contrast makes for a good point, not excess; I don't need to be clubbed over the head with peril for me to understand that the characters are in danger.
The reasoning for the whole series is included in the Afterword. The authors support an interpretation of The Book of Revelation which states that all the events described therein occurred within one-hundred years of Christ's death, rather than still to happen in the future. If this book was supposed to convince me of the validity of this interpretation, then it failed utterly.
I don't recommend this series, or the individual novels. There was so much blood in these pages, all I am left with is the hope that the actual roman empire wasn't as bad as Brouwer and Hanegraaff have described it to be. A glaring lack of structured plot and character development meant that this book begins with a cliff hanger, ends with a cliff hanger, and has no attempt at any sort of resolution or conclusion to make this feel like an actual story, rather than a series of random scenes strung together depicting people being harmed. If Gladiator is your favorite movie and you watch it obsessively, then you might enjoy this series. Otherwise do your self a favor - avoid some nightmares and find something else to read.