Series: The Shards of Heaven #3
Publisher: Tor Books (November 7, 2017)
Length: 400 pages
My Rating: 4 stars
The Realms of God is the third, and concluding, installment in Dr. Michael Livingston’s The Shards of Heaven: a clever, entertaining historical fantasy twist on ancient Rome. Having been an avid reader since book one, I had high expectations for this novel and can truly admit this met them all, delivering exactly the mixture of action, adventure, history, and mystery that I was hoping for as the story comes to a close.
Two decades have passed. King Juba of Mauretania and Cleopatra Selene rule peacefully far from the dangerous machinations of Rome touching them. Augustus Caesar’s ever vigilant eyes focused on other areas of his vast empire. The Ark of the Covenant hidden away in the mighty city of Petra, watched over by the smoldering bones of long dead people and by the ever vigilant guard of Titus Pullo, Lucius Vorenus, and the orphan Miriam whom they have reared as their own.
But while Juba and Cleopatra Selene bask in tranquility evil is still at work. The demons King Juba unwittingly having released years before conspiring with Augustus Caesar’s heir, Tiberius, to obtain the Shards of Heaven. This unholy alliance determined to seize the Shards in the possession of Juba and Selene then uncover the location of the hidden Ark and seize its power to finally acquire ultimate power!
Without a doubt, Dr. Livingston is a gifted story teller of historical fiction; his ability to craft an epic plot and weave an entertaining tale growing by leaps and bounds before a constant readers eyes, even as The Realms of God showcases: his accurate, compelling visions of the past (ancient Rome here) filled with legendary vistas and populated by living, breathing people dealing with both normal, everyday issues of friendship, love, and loyalty as well as taking part in epic adventures that will shape the fate of the world and the future to come. This quality having been on display throughout the trilogy and shining forth even bright in this concluding chapter.
As for the characters themselves and their journey, it all ends neatly, tightly with no loose plots left dangling in the proverbial wind. King Juba, Cleopatra Selene, Tiberius, Miriam and all the rest finding fitting closure in this narrative. No, everyone doesn’t get what they truly deserve — good or bad — but they do reach an ending to this leg of their life journey, a conclusion to this phase of their life.
The only criticism I would level at the novel, if forced, is Dr. Livingston’s continued inability to fully portray the epic nature of certain situations and emotions. It is one thing to tell readers how deeply a character feels about particular circumstances or other people, but it is distinctly another for an author to be able to convey said emotions through the character’s actions, having readers innately understand such without every having to announce it. Perhaps this isn’t a huge issue, since most narratives resort to “telling-instead-of-showing” at different times, but I personally prefer more show, less tell.
My final thoughts on The Realms of God are decidedly positive. Without a doubt, this book is an entertaining mixture of historical settings and legendary figures with fanciful and clever plot lines, delivered in a flowing, easily digested prose that makes the narrative a quick and delightful read What sets it a notch above other historical fantasy stories, however, is that Dr. Livingston has crafted this tale in such a way that little knowledge of history is required to enjoy the triumphs and travails of its leads. Great historical fun is how I’d describe this novel (and series) to potential readers, even as I also heartily recommended it to them.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.
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