Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Length: 352 pages
When Nic, a slave in the mines outside of Rome, is forced to enter a sealed cavern containing the lost treasures of Julius Caesar, he finds much more than gold and gemstones: He discovers an ancient bulla, an amulet that belonged to the great Caesar and is filled with a magic once reserved for the Gods -- magic some Romans would kill for.
Now, with the deadly power of the bulla pulsing through his veins, Nic is determined to become free. But instead, he finds himself at the center of a ruthless conspiracy to overthrow the emperor and spark the Praetor War, a battle to destroy Rome from within. Traitors and spies lurk at every turn, each more desperate than the next to use Nic's newfound powers for their own dark purposes.
In a quest to stop the rebellion, save Rome, and secure his own freedom, Nic must harness the magic within himself and defeat the empire's most powerful and savage leaders.
Protagonist: Nic, a slave in the mines outside of Rome, is about about to have is life changed forever. After finding a bulla that once belonged to Julius Ceaser himself, a bulla which seems to contain a strange power, he finds himself as the most wanted man in all of the Roman Empire. Nic is such a great character to read from. His character development is very tangible and it's was to see how he naturally changes over the course of the book. He starts off as a slightly disobedient slave but over the course of the book starts to not only see himself differently but the world in which he lives in a different light and starts to find his own place within it.
Romance: Much like the first book in Nielsen's previous series, The Ascendance trilogy, this book puts no real focus on the romance, but instead only really hints at it coming and has the book focus so much more on the characters and plot. Though there does seem to be some more intense foreshadowing about the romance then there was in her previous series. The feelings between the characters in question are even addressed a few times over the course of the book, though nothing close to the amount that it probably would be if this were a YA novel instead.
World-Building: While I wouldn't necessarily call this a mythology book, like I would a Rick Riordan book, Roman mythology does drive this story quite a bit. Though the mythology is focused more on the divine magic of the gods as opposed to the legends about gods and heroes. Everything in this book from characters, setting, and plot is so richly described that there was not a single moment where I felt that the book even started to drag, it's fast paced and full of a lot of great action and adventure.
Predictability: Once again Nielsen works her foreshadowing magic in feats of brilliance. While there were of course times that I would predict something, the moments I was shocked far outweighed the times when I knew what was coming. Sometimes the twist would come from outside forces, but sometimes, much like Nielsen's book The False Prince, out narrator, Nic, would hide something from the reader only to have it be revealed later and completely blow my mind.
Ending: The ending of this book was magnificent. Everything came to a head in ways I never thought it would, especially not for this first installment. The twists at the end though were probably my favorite part. Though the final climax is full of magic and action, the twists sort of outshine that. As things were revealed everything sort of clicks into place and really reveals the brilliance of Nielsen's carefully crafted foreshadowing. The very end has a fairly large cliffhanger that has left me dying to read the next installment
So, I said in my review of The Runaway King that Jennifer A. Nielsen had become one of my favorite authors, and while that may have been a bit premature considering I had only read two books, which were both from the same series, by her, this book is definitely a testament to that statement. I cannot wait to see what's next for this series.