Thursday, April 3, 2014
'Marcus Varitor - Centurion' by Anne Baxter Campbell
Marcus, son of Senator Decimus Varitor, is a decanus in the Roman cohort in Jerusalem. His tribune hints at a promotion to centurion if Marcus can bring in Barabbas. There are really only two things Marcus really wants—to be a centurion and to win the love of an Egyptian girl. When Meskhanet is sent to Rome on a slave ship and Marcus is captured by the very brigand he’s supposed to apprehend, those hopes may both evaporate faster than a small puddle under the hot desert sun.
Wow, what a non-stop romp through the Roman Empire. I'm not kidding, there are back-to-back adventures all the way through, very dramatic, but also quite believable for this time period. I can imagine it as a TV series in which we have to wait, impatiently, for each new weekly episode.
Although I hadn't read the first book in this series, it was easy to pick up the plot. Marcus is a young soldier charged with the job of capturing Barabbas, a crook who turns out to be just as slippery as he was in the gospels. I like the way Barabbas was portrayed in this story, justifying his own warped and extreme principles. It seems fluky escapes were his established pattern. Realising Barabbas' dangerous character, Marcus tries a few unorthodox ways of getting hold of him, but they backfire badly. He finds out that it's not necessarily wise to go ad lib when you might end up getting yourself crucified.
Meanwhile, Meskhanet, the Egyptian slave girl who Marcus loves, has to wriggle out of one peril after another. It is definitely a precarious time for a lovely young girl with no family or personal effects to be alive in. Only her own resourcefulness and God's grace save her from the unscrupulous time and again.
There's a lovable cast of supporting characters. I really liked Rebecca, the sad old Jewess who wondered why her son, Barabbas, had gone so far off the straight and narrow. Then there's Septus, Marcus' cute little half brother, who steals every scene he's in. And Dinah and David, the 10-year-old twins who were bought by Marcus and his family. (Notice I said 'bought' and not 'adopted'.)
The story takes place partly in Caesaria, partly in Rome, partly in the desert wilderness and partly on the sea. What it takes to hold a book of this scope together is a hero with courage, intelligence, resourcefulness, a bit of cunning, and a kind heart. As Marcus is definitely all of that, and handsome as well, it worked great for me.
I received a copy from the author in return for an honest review.
Marcus Varitor,Centurion - Book Two - The Truth Trilogy available from Amazon