THE PHOENIX CIRCLE
KLYO Press, 2007
Reviewed by Joy
What caused the downfall of the Roman Empire? After 1200 years, the ruler of most of Europe has degenerated internally, and is fast giving way to external and internal enemies. Professor Boris Raymond's novel shows us cause and effect embodied in well developed characters.
Orestes is son of a mid-level Roman noble whose estates have been engulfed by Attila the Hun. Orestes' family has accommodated so well to Hunnish rule that Orestes becomes a valued official of Attila. His plan, encouraged by Roman aristocrats Cassiodorus and Romulus, is to learn everything he can from Attila about leadership, and to understand Hunnish tactics so well that he can help Rome defeat this overpowering enemy. When Attila dies, Orestes becomes Cassiodorus's protégé and Romulus’ son-in-law.
Cassiodorus was assigned the task, by the last worthy ruler of the Western Empire, of forming a secret group of strong leaders to revive Rome. Rome is now ruled by the kind of self-seekers who, five centuries ago, had destroyed the Roman Republic by ignoring its welfare in favor of their own. Today it will be dangerous for Cassiodorus’ group to oppose them. Emperor Valentinian’s sister Honora, Pope Leo’s secretary Galasius, Secret Service head Cassiodorus, and others are grooming a leader who they hope will keep Rome from being absorbed by surrounding barbarian civilizations. Meanwhile, a string of short-lived emperors seize the Western throne and are in turn deposed by Romanized foreigners hungry for power. Professor Raymond’s extensive knowledge of the period provides the strong foundation on which his story is built.
THE PHOENIX CIRCLE follows not just the life but the development of Orestes, chosen by the secret circle to be their representative on the throne. Professor Raymond has put much thought into character development: his large cast of characters evolve as experience changes them. Throughout the book we follow the stories of Orestes’ wife Barbaria, her slave Eugenia, Eugenia’s lover Severinus who becomes a great holy man, Orestes’ mistress Alexia, his Secret Service heads Carlus and Biglias, and his adopted brother Odovacar who becomes a king. In addition to being growing human beings living gripping lives, his characters also illustrate the division between spiritual- and power-hunger which intensified as the Empire degenerated. The subplots are woven together smoothly and support each other in a combination of absorbing threads.
Professor Raymond has revised his original book, called "The Twelfth Vulture of Romulus," with outside help. The improvement in the writing is considerable, though it still shows that it was written by a natural writer of non-fiction. In spite of this I recommend it highly, because of its epic vision and intimate characters. You can find THE PHOENIX CIRCLE at http://www.booksurge.com .
May 2008 review
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