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Romanitas

by Sophia McDougall

Series: Roman Empire Continued (Book 1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3281160,198 (3.01)5
Imagine the Roman Empire is still flourishing today... territory from Persia to Terranova, and mechanised crucifixes are ranked along the banks of the Thames. As volume one of ROMANITAS opens, Marcus Novius Faustus Leo, heir apparent to the Imperial throne, is mourning the death of his parents following a tragic accident. However, as information about the last days of his father's life becomes known to him, Marcus realises that his father's death was no accident and that his own life is in danger. inside others' minds, struggles to save her brother, Sulien, from a London prison ship. In a fortune teller's stall in a Gallic flea-market, Marcus, Una and Sulien's paths cross, and the fate of the Empire rests on their shoulders... and yet also far removed from our own.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Set in a world where the Roman Empire persevered through to the modern day and now owns most of the world, built through military conquest and an (increasingly unsustainable) slave economy. Marcus, the nominated heir to the Empire goes on the run after the deaths of his parents, his only hope of safety a hidden refuge for runaway slaves. Two unusually gifted slaves, brother and sister, escape from London and flee to the European mainland. Thrown together with the fugitive heir, they flee to the refuge, but the Empire is close behind.

So what should be an adventurous tale of danger and intrigue and struggling on in the face of impossible odds in a distorted reality turns out to be something meatier and more substantial due to the author's total commitment to her characters. Everyone in Romanitas is damaged, whether it's Marcus by loss and betrayal, or Una by her enslavement, Sulien by injustice or any of the other characters wrestling with their hurts and their angers and their insecurities. They represent an emotional and psychological palimpsest of the Empire itself, a repressive, highly controlled military oligarchy full of splendours built on human suffering. More demanding than you might expect from a slipstream political thriller, but well worth it. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
This is a fast paced young adult novel set in an alternative universe where the Roman Empire did not fall. A plot in Rome leaves Marcus orphaned and heir to the Emperor but at risk of his life. Two slaves with mysterious powers, one under threat of crucifixion, flee.

It's hard to review this as a standalone, because I've read all three books back to back. But I remember it being very difficult to put the book down. The characters are carefully drawn and convincing, and mostly avoid being lazy steriotypes. There is lots of Action and Adventure. And although it is the first in the triology there is a satisfying ending. ( )
  atreic | Feb 25, 2013 |
I am a bit of two minds about this one. The setting is utterly fascinating - an alternative history where the Roman Empire never declined and fell but has continued on to the present day. I'm not sure how realistic it is that any empire would last for that long, but it certainly makes for a compelling alternative history concept. Against that background, the plot follows a group of three teenagers - two escaped slaves and the heir to the emperor on the run from assassins - as they try to bring down a conspiracy that originates from somewhere in the inner circle of power in the Empire.

This had me expect something really exciting, but unfortunately the novel fell somewhat short of my expectations - for the most part, I just could not connect to what was happening at all, and as a consequence the novel dragged considerably during its first two thirds. I can not even quite put the finger on what the problem was, but I suspect it was a certain lack of urgency during the travelogue chapters combined with a rather diffuse sense of place, the combination of which is pretty much deadly to any kind of pursuit story. Things do pick up in the last third third of Romanitas, though, once the action moves to Rome where things culminate in what is indeed a very exciting finale.

That I lasted that long at all and kept reading through the drab chapters leading up to the climax, was mainly due to the one element where the novel really shines, and that is characterization. I'd have a hard time to think of another novel that does teenagers so convincingly (and without being a YA novel, too!) and McDougall keeps a wonderful balance between having her characters behave in a reasonable manner and having their emotions or sheer impulse get the better of their reason. It's this aspect that kept me hooked and will likely make me get the remaining volumes of the trilogy as well.
1 vote Larou | Dec 30, 2011 |
The idea is simple and intriguing: what if the Roman Empire had survived and remained dominant throughout not only Europe, but the rest of the world up to the present day?

This posed lots of questions for me and it was a must read from this point of view. However, the Roman world in Romanitas seems to be a very lightweight veneer on an otherwise fairly run of the mill thriller/espionage tale. Perhaps it was unrealistic to expect that such a world would look anything like the Roman empire of antiquity, but while reading I didn't feel like the book was transporting me to anywhere other than today's world with a few tweaks.

This is a decent story - it's just that it promises more than it delivers. ( )
  Gordopolis | Jun 26, 2011 |
I could not get into the characters in this one. I read as much as I could, which I admit was not very much. Oh well, an interesting premise, just not the book for me. ( )
1 vote irunsjh | Sep 13, 2010 |
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Epigraph
Romulus will rule, and build the walls of Mars
And he will give his people his own name;
Romans.  On them I lay no limits.
I set them free from distance and from time,
I have given them an Empire without end.
Aeneid. I
Once, when we were on our way to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who was possessed by an oracular spirit, and brought large fortunes to her owners by telling fortunes.
Acts, 16.16.
Dedication
To my Mother
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Marcus' parents had been embalmed for eight days, but though their eyes were closed and their injuries invisible, they did not look asleep, as they were presumably meant to.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Imagine the Roman Empire is still flourishing today... territory from Persia to Terranova, and mechanised crucifixes are ranked along the banks of the Thames. As volume one of ROMANITAS opens, Marcus Novius Faustus Leo, heir apparent to the Imperial throne, is mourning the death of his parents following a tragic accident. However, as information about the last days of his father's life becomes known to him, Marcus realises that his father's death was no accident and that his own life is in danger. inside others' minds, struggles to save her brother, Sulien, from a London prison ship. In a fortune teller's stall in a Gallic flea-market, Marcus, Una and Sulien's paths cross, and the fate of the Empire rests on their shoulders... and yet also far removed from our own.

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