By: S.J.A. Turney
Are you a lover of historical fiction? Do you enjoy being transported back in time? Travelling all the way into an entirely different era with all of its unique customs, lifestyle and norms. Being able to steal a glance at what it must have been like to actually live at such a time. Undoubtedly, one of the more popular eras to explore is that of the Ancient Roman Empire. Images of gladiators and the Roman war machine may instantly come to mind. If this sounds like your “niche”, then Tales of Ancient Rome by author S.J.A. Turney may be the great reading selection you have been looking for!
The book is actually a collection of 12 short stories with one bonus selection included. The various stories occur at different times throughout the ancient Roman Empire. They also provide a fairly diverse perspective of life during this era which is recorded in an entertaining and fictional account. From a group of besieged Legionnaires fending off invading barbarians, to a humorous account of firefighting in the Roman age. The tales are interesting and based upon actual historic events (with a creative licence of course). My personal favorites were “Trackside Seats” and “Hold the Wall.” Both did a very good job at showing the societal class system and overt disregard for human life which was prevalent in the upper echelons.
In regards to the plot development in the various tales, they each are unique and provide a good cross section of life in Ancient Rome. The stories were entertaining, but some were clearly better than others. The author knows his subject matter quite well as the fictional writing is backed up with actual facts from the era. Many of the points are spot on correct, but a few do go off course. Also, while the individual tales were certainly amusing, I personally found them far too short to really get engrossed in the events. That being said, the actual writing was very smooth flowing, easy to follow and quite diverse.
There are also a variety of interesting characters throughout the anthology. As readers, we are introduced to them and start to get familiar with them through the actual story events. However, the “snippet” nature of the tales makes it quite difficult to really see much in-depth development. I would have enjoyed more background about certain players, and seeing the series of events which led them to be at their particular point in time. Unfortunately, the relationship which develops between the reader and the wide host of characters is superficial at best.
As mentioned, the author does a good job at presenting the actual time and place in his stories. The setting is authentic and believable. I do think that some prior knowledge about Ancient Rome is probably necessary to get a full appreciation for this point and for the stories in general. Such comprehension will certainly increase the understanding and enjoyment of the anthology.
Overall, I enjoyed this collection of short stories. They were well written and able to hold my interest quite well. Nevertheless, they left me wanting a little something more.
3 out of 5 Roman Stars for this one! ***