As a lover of historical fiction, especially involving the young Christian Church, I looked forward to reading this novel. The historical setting seemed accurate and the facts seems to correlate well with the records as we know them, although those are spotty at best.
The story line was interesting but seemed contrived, especially the initial love story between the pagan princess Valeria and the Theban warrior Mauritius. That portion of the story, which was to be the continual reference point for the entire book, happened so quickly and ended so rapidly that it just didn't seem balanced.
Also, some of the relationships were a bit difficult to follow and not adequately explained, although I thought that Valeria and her mother, Prisca's, characterizations seemed very believable and fully developed. I especially enjoyed their loving companionship and trust in one another, first as pagans and then as Christians.
The sufferings of Christians during this time period was horrible and was depicted very accurately. The Church endured through horrific persecution and survived because of the brave lives of many saints.
My main difficulty with the story was that the authors dwelt, in my opinion, a bit too much on the sexual lives of the characters. The point that this perspective was described so often and vividly in the private lives of the characters, and yet was not correlated with the entire pagan culture and its religious practices at that time, did not seem appropriate. That is not to say that this perspective was incorrect; it just seemed to be unnecessarily emphasized for Christian fiction.