Stephanie's Reviews > The Course of Honor

The Course of Honor by Lindsey Davis
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's review
Sep 17, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: female-author, worthwhile-historical-fiction
Read in September, 2011

This book had several things working in its favor,if you're looking for something a little different. It's set in Ancient Rome and focuses on Vespasian- a nice deviation from the Julio-Claudians and the five good emperors. (Granted large swathes of time take place during the Julio-Claudians' reign, but it was nice to not have them as the focus. Not really.) As another unique choice, the main character turns out to be a slave who rises to the middle class. Granted, Caenis was fortunate enough to work for a very wealthy patron and receive an education, but one of the subplots of this book is the ways in which living as a slave- even one who has all their basic needs met- can be damaging to one's psyche. In a genre that focuses far too much on the rich and the powerful for my taste sometimes, this was a nice change of pace.

The books major fault is that paragraphs upon paragraph are devoted to the recitation of historical events, seemingly shifting far away from the POV of any of the main characters. It was aggravating to read a very powerful few pages in which the protagonists were fully engaged... only to have events grind to a halt with Ancient History 101. And it was doubly a shame because Davis really has a talent for conveying what living during tumultuous times can be like. The character gossip and fear what the emperors will do next, but they also plan marriages, fuss over children, live in crappy apartments, and wonder where their next paycheck will come from. It feels weirdly complementary to present times. If she could have better integrated this wonderful aspect of the book with the history lesson, this would have been a five star read.

And of course this book is pretty romantic at the heart of it. The love story is sweet and unpretentious and I bought their affection for one another. Glad I spent time on this book.

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