By Lindsey Davis
St. Martin’s Press, $25.99, 464 pages

Lindsey Davis’ Master and God tells the story of two people, Lucilla Flavia and Gauis Clodianus, living in the Roman Empire under the reign of the tyrant Domitian. Although both of these characters are involved in the royal court (Lucilla as a hairdresser to the royal women, and Gaius as a member of the Praetorian Guard and later as part of the security apparatus), they are ordinary, everyday people. This is the strength of Davis’ book. Davis is a good storyteller and skillfully develops both of her main characters, by weaving their lives together in ways that feel plausible, not manipulated. She provides readers with the sense, taste and smell of ordinary life at that time. This makes her novel simultaneously familiar and original to modern readers and grabs their attention. By looking on everyday life of common people, Davis also avoids the historian’s trap of only being interested in famous persons and characters. Some dedicated historical novels readers may object obviously modern language and slang that occasionally jars with setting of the story, but the compelling plot alone makes this book worth a read.

Reviewed by Katie Richards