Friday, April 29, 2011

Stabbed in Stanzas Book Review: Roman Hell by Mark Mellon

Roman Hell (2010)
Reviewed by Karen L. Newman

History buffs will appreciate the novel, Roman Hell by Mark Mellon. He paints a rich tapestry of Roman life. He includes quotes from the Latin translation of the work of the Roman historian and senator Tacitus to aid in the authenticity of the setting. Mellon even includes a murder plot, reminiscent of the Shakespearian play Julius Caesar. Yet the betrayal leads to unpredicted results. As in real life things aren’t what they seem; a hero can turn into a villain and the villain into someone likable. The protagonist, a poet named Martial, is a refreshing change since most of these types of novels feature Roman soldiers. The addition of witches adds to the book without taking from its authenticity.
Sometimes, however, Mellon spends too much time on the setting and not enough on character development. The reader can lose sight of the plot and interest in the book. Unlike most books, Mellon moves fifteen years into the future to continue the story. He also utilizes quite a large number of characters which adds to the confusion. The language exudes brilliance and the intellect of Mellon is evident, perhaps a drawback to the average reader. Yet he doesn’t dumb down anything. This is fun fictional textbook.
Roman Hell is a unique look into the past; the horror, life itself. Isn’t that still true today?

--Karen L. Newman