He did it first. Long before our current obsession with all things connected with ancient Rome, Allan Massie was producing historical novels set in that fascinating period with all the solidity, dash and power of the very finest epic writing. The appearance therefore of The Evening of the World, the first part of a much-anticipated new Roman trilogy, is welcome news indeed, and all it takes are a few pages to see how consummately Massie has made this era his own. Not only is the scholarship and research seamlessly integrated into an ambitious and panoramic narrative, the complex psychology of his characters (particularly the protagonist here, a young Roman nobleman named Marcus) is delineated with the utmost intelligence and subtlety.
Marcus is reputed by legend to be the son of the Archangel Michael, but religion is not the answer to the questions of identity and destiny that torment him. It is the period of the barbarian invasions, and Marcus finds life in the savagery and splendour of the Roman Empire unsatisfying. He undertakes a search for meaning and stability in a world whose days (he senses) are numbered. His odyssey takes him the full length and breadth of the Empire, from Italy to Greece and the fabulous decadence of Byzantium, taking in a terrifying encounter with Attila the Hun and his marauding hordes. But whatever dangers Marcus encounters, he finds himself no nearer to the answers he seeks. Those answers, of course, will be forthcoming in the second and third books of this sequence, and it's part of the author's strategy to keep us wanting more--nothing wrong with that, of course. But if Massie maintains his customary high standards (and we have no reason to suppose he won't, as this is every inch the equal of such remarkable Massie novels as Nero's Heirs), this trilogy may well prove to be his magnum opus. --Barry Forshaw [via]