Review: The Shards of Heaven
Cleopatra and Antony rule Egypt via Alexandria. Octavian rules Rome. THE SHARDS OF HEAVEN follows the real people and events that lead to the Roman conquest of Alexandria and the end of the Ptolemic line. But according to Michael Livingston, there’s more to the story.
And it involves magic.
Enter Juba, the orphaned prince of Numidia and adopted son of Julius Ceasar. Desperate to find vengeance for the death of his father, he seeks magical objects so he can have enough power to bring down Rome. At the start of SHARDS he finds what he believes to be the trident of Poseidon and discovers it’s as powerful as he hoped. But Juba is a mere teenager to Octavian’s experienced ambition and soon discovers he’s in over his head.
On the other side of the Mediterranean in Alexandria lives Cleopatra’s children: Caesarion, the teenage son of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar; and Selene, the young daughter of Cleopatra and Antony. Their role in this story is integral, as is that of Vorenus, the Roman legionnaire who is tasked with the personal safety of Antony’s family. Livingston draws these characters as products of the world they live in, but also as individuals with their own minds and motivations. Despite all being real-life historical characters, he breathes new life into their personalities and situation. Juba’s drive is real, as is his talent for strategy. Caesarion feels the pressure to rule after his mother, but understands the difference between showmanship and true leadership. Selene may be young, but she understands more than the others give her credit for. Vorenus had been campaigning with Julius Caesar for years and is beginning to feel his age, but understands what’s at stake.
If you know anything about the history of the era, then you know what happens. Forunately, Livingston does not make it a dull, clinical re-telling of the battles and movements of the characters; the pacing moves forward at a regular clip. We feel their despair, resignation, desperation, and triumphs as they struggle to survive what the history books tell us, as well as the parallel story of the powerful artifacts that–in the wrong hands–could change the world. Again.
Livingston does well in painting a picture of the landscape and what surrounds our characters. These details really helped me visualize the world these characters live in. The author also explains as much as he can about the artifacts of power and where they come from, and even a little about how they work. By the end while I understood what was going on, I was still left with questions about the magic and why it worked the way it did. Plus there was some supposition about its source that wasn’t ever really clarified. I suspect we’ll learn more in the sequels.
In all THE SHARDS OF HEAVEN was a fun read, the prose easy on the eyes and straightforward, the characters were engaging, and despite a predictable storyline, was exciting.
- Recommended Age: 15+
- Language: A few lesser words
- Violence: fair amount of death and bloodshed
- Sex: Vague references