Except for the fact that Augustus Caesar preferred Raetian wine to any other, I knew close to nothing about the region and the system for dislocation of auxiliary troops in Raetia. ..
Heather Domin has done an impressive work with this book - the factual information about that place at the time is so well incorporated in the fiction , that at some point I found myself looking at maps, reading about legion formations and articles describing hierarchy of the Roman Empire.
Despite how little is known about the religious practices of Raetia,the author has used that scarce information so thoughtfully, that the picture of spiritual life in the book does not feel even for a second incomplete.
And besides all the things I learned about SPQR, I was introduced to two very intricate characters.
I wanted to know more about Valerian- the man behind the titles and military honors, and Dardanus - the young soldier, constantly inspired by his readings of Homer's works . Yes, the reference to Achilles is there, with a twist.
The action though is not driven by their relationship and throughout half the book a possible affair between them seems like a very improper thought.
I like how different those two are. The age difference between Valerian and Dardanus was serving the purpose of creating a bigger contrast between them in terms of experience and status , and at the same time it was to some extent the reason for their feelings about each other.
The first books builds a very solid foundation for development of Dardanus' character, and I really hope to see him as a strategist rather than a field legionnaire in the next book.
As fоr Valerian- the general begins to look more and more human to me as the story unfolds and i really want to know how much of his character will be revealed.