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The Man with Two Names
"Is it better to be a bad man and accomplish great things, or be a great man and accomplish nothing?" Quintus Sertorius has spent the first 20 years of his life training horses on his family farm, but this must end when his father dies and his village's political connections to Rome are severed. For the sake of his family, Quintus must leave his village for the Eternal City. If he succeeds, his people will be fed. If he fails, his people will starve. He begins his political career under the most influential men in Rome, but soon discovers that those in the Senate are less inclined to help him than he had hoped. His journey takes him from the corrupt and treacherous Forum to the deadly forests of Gaul, making powerful friends and enemies along the way. But it will take more than allies to succeed. He will have to decide what compromises he is willing to make, and what risks he is willing to take, if he is to secure a future for himself and his people.
Davis’s debut is an inspired retelling of the legendary Roman statesman and military commander Quintus Sertorius’s service to Rome in the Senate House and later on the battlefield. He recalls his early life beginning in 647 B.C.E., when, at age 19, he leaves his rural horse-breeding farm in Nursia, Italy, to serve Gnaeus Caepio, his family’s patron in Rome. Sertorius begins as Caepio’s trusted aide during a dramatically shifting period of Roman politics: General Gaius Marius challenges the ruling nobility, whom he believes are corrupt. Honest and high-principled, Sertorius begins questioning Caepio’s character in the midst of political power struggles in the run-up to election day for representatives to the senate. Sertorius quits politics for the military after his patron enlists him in a bribery scheme to illegally obtain votes, and he suspects Caepio’s involvement in an assassination attempt on Gnaeus Mallius Maximus, Marius’s choice for consul. Battlefield scenes are gripping and graphic, and war clearly has a lasting psychological impact. A romance between Sertorius and Arrea, a slave who was freed when Burdigala was sacked, arrives late in the tale, but is a welcome reprieve from war’s ugliness. Davis’s narrative strengths lie in portraying the horrifying realities of war and in vivifying the ancient setting through descriptions of battle gear, Rome’s forum and elections, and even Julius Caesar’s wedding. This is the first volume in Davis’s Sertorious Scrolls series, and readers will be eager to see where the story goes from here. (BookLife)