Wrath of the Furies (Ancient Rome)
by Steven Saylor
Cover Artist: Painting The Course of Enpire Destruction, 1836 by Thomas Cole.
Collection of the New York Historical Society / Bridgeman Images;
sky Eruption of Mount Vesuvious by Granger, NYC.
Review by Mel Jacob
Minotaur Books Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250105783
Date: 13 September 2016 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Steven Saylor has specialized in the politics of the ancient Roman world in most of his novels. Wrath of the Furies, set in 88 B.C, sends Gordianus into danger to locate and save his old tutor Antipater, now known as Zoticus of Zeugma. However, Ephesus, where Zoticus is reputed to be, is in turmoil and for any Roman to go there could mean death.
A letter from Ephesus arrives that appears to be a page from a secret diary kept by Zoticus/Antipater. Recognizing the writing, Gordianus is determined to travel there and find his old tutor. The two retired eunuchs with whom he is staying in Alexandria advise him to take care because his district Roman accent is sure to alert authorizes to his nationality. At present Romans are not welcome in any of Mithridates' conquered territories. All Romans who could do so have fled elsewhere.
Gordianus is adamant that he must go, so his hosts advise him to pretend to be mute. He and his slave/lover Bethesda set sail with high hopes. As they travel, the stories they hear of Mithridates' treatment of captured Roman politicians and generals provide no comfort. Gordianus is also approached to keep his eyes and ears open for information that might be valuable for the Romans to learn and to communicate via Samson, a Jew they had met on their voyage.
When Gordianus and Bethesda arrive in Ephesus and authorities learn he is mute, they immediately take the pair to the royal palace. Gordianus is examined by priests and deemed appropriate for a planned ceremony requiring a mute, a blind man, and a deaf man. He has no idea what is planned nor does he know where Zoticus is.
The narrative is interspersed with observations from Zoticus' journal on his position, the politics of Mithridates' empire, and his new queen. Zoticus has been placed with actors and entertainers on the lower level of the palace. He is forced to witness the abasement and killing of various Roman officials at various dinner functions. He is also concerned over who took pages from his secret journal and what that person may have been done with them. He has been a loyal spy for Mithridates, but now has changed his mind and fears the king will kill him.
Some readers may find the journal entries a bit tedious, Gordianus too focused on sex, and Samson's abilities to come and go so easily somewhat suspect. Mithridates' plot is indeed horrendous. Fortunately for Gordianus, past friends come to his aid.
This is the fifteenth book in the Roma Sub Rosa series featuring Gordianus the Finder. Saylor also has four other novels.