ROMA is an ambitious saga that portrays the early days of ancient Rome, from its first bare beginnings as a salt trading post to the the struggle of the heirs of Julius Caesar. Each chapter is from a different period, though the time between them varies and shortens as the book goes on. The chapters are held together by several families, the most important of which holds an ancient talisman which is passed down through the generations.
Of necessity, the book truly isn’t gripping. Since each chapter is told by a different person, it’s hard to become attached to any of them, and a genealogical chart somewhere tracking their descendants would have been very useful. Still, each chapter was well told and interesting. I enjoyed the way Saylor showed how something simple becomes a legend only to become mystical and forgotten. He also succeeded in linking together all the chapters enough to make the book feel like a cohesive whole. Roma itself is a personality just as those who inhabit her are, which helps a lot with the narrative in later parts of the book.
Still, I am left feeling that although it was enjoyable, it could have been better. Rutherford’s LONDON is the best novel I’ve read of this type, and I would recommend that one first. This book provides a painless, enjoyable fictional introduction to early Rome and would also serve as a good stepping-off point for those interested in its history.