I want to talk about 3 related books in this post. The author is Alex Johnston, and all are available as EBooks from Amazon.com. They are, in the order they should be read:
Caesar’s Daughter (Song of Julia).
These are short books, and while I realize that Epublishing is redefining such terms as short story, novella and novel, to me, a book under 175 pages or so is a long or short novella. OK, so I would classify each of these as medium novellas, and I tend to think of them more as a collection of novellas than as 3 separate novels, but I’m also ancient and probably a luddite, so be advised.
I’ve read a fair amount of historical fiction set in Ancient Rome, from Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series (my personal gold standard) to Ron Peake’s series about the legions, starting with Marching with Caesar; Conquering Gaul, Stephen Saylor, Lindsey Davis and Robert Harris (all authors I like very much.) One of the things I notice is that all the work of these authors has a kind of serious respectful note …they take their subject seriously, and their excellent research is evident.
These books are also well researched, although one might not think so while reading them (more about that in a bit) because they deal with ancient Rome, and very famous ancient Romans in a humorous, irreverent and exuberant manner that made me feel more like I was watching Saturday Night Live than reading a historical novel. And do you know what? It works! The plots get zany, the dialog moves from cheesy groaner jokes to laugh out loud funny, the great are treated with little respect and less reverence … and the main characters are so impossible they are absolutely credible. This isn’t a history lesson, it’s a romp through Rome, and it’s wicked funny.
Each book has an epilog, which is as much a must read as are the books, because it is here that we see how well each book has been researched. The author even makes excellent cases for some of his most outrageous (and outrageously funny) scenes, such as, for example, Caesar’s daughter, the epitome of what a Roman matron should be, rapping (yes, really!) triumphantly, albeit alone and in her own home.
Modern readers may find the style of these books disorienting, but I strongly suspect that Plautus would have loved these stories, as I did.