The Triumph of Caesar
© 2008 Steven Saylor
The Triumph of Caesar is currently the last (Saylor may yet add to it, but I can’t confirm this from his website) book in the Roma sub Rosa series. I would not be surprised if it were the last book in the series, given Gordianus’ increasing age and political changes in Rome that make the court system that generates so much work for Gordianus a nonenity. If the series does end here, though, it does not end with strength.
At book’s opening, Julius Caesar is busy consolidating his power in Rome — endearing himself to the masses, rewarding allies, and enjoying the humiliation of the vanquished. Although all of his enemies have been killed on the field of battle, Caesar’s wife is haunted by dreams of his assassination. She asks Gordianus to assist her in ferreting out anyone who may wish Caesar ill, but he refuses — until he learns that a friend from Last Seen in Massila was first given the job, but murdered for his troubles. The death of a friend in the pursuit of the truth again sees Gordianus hit the streets of Rome, in hopes of discovering his friend’s murderer and by extension someone who might desire to assassinate the new dictator-for-life. He does this as the dictator is celebrating his four Triumphs, military parades celebrating victories granted by the Senate. Gordianus’s family is allowed prime seating at these Triumphs, thanks to Meto’s many years of service to the dictator — allowing Saylor to show off his research in fairly vivid scenes.
Although the readers are promised a historically involved plot and given plenty of detail, Triumph of Caesar seems weak to me. As the story developed, it became less interesting — the plot twists detract, not add, from the story to me. The book never grabbed me, which is surprising given how effective Saylor has been at providing a riveting story in times past. The book seems as tired as its increasingly white-bearded protagonist. Give it a chance if you’re a fan of the series, as everyone’s tastes differ, but don’t introduce yourself to the series with this one.