Lucius: A Soldier’s Journey

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Set in the early decades of the Roman Empire during the reign of Emperor Tiberius (14–37 CE), Rev. Michael H. Lavery’s Lucius: A Soldier’s Journey is a richly detailed work of historical fiction that combines key episodes from the Bible with both proven historical fact and plausibly imagined fictional details. Through skilfully contrasting the blood-soaked expansionist aims of the Roman political and military machine with the peaceful person-centric messages of early Christianity, Lavery weaves a tale of redemption and hope set during a dark time.

Lucius is a committed, successful, and respected soldier of Rome. Having risen to the rank of centurion, he is now stationed back in Rome and tasked with training the next generation of legionaries. However, despite his unquestionable loyalty to the Empire, Lucius differs significantly from his fellow soldiers due to the radical—perhaps even heretical—teachings of his late father, Antonicus.

A man of peace whose views were forged in war, Antonicus did not believe in the wisdom of conquest, telling his son that knowledge and culture should be shared freely and without any sense of compulsion if other nations were to be truly integrated in the Roman Empire. What’s more, he did not agree with the practice of slavery, a cornerstone of Roman society. Thus, Antonicus purchased people from the slave markets with the intention of immediately freeing them and offering them paid work or the opportunity to return home.

Despite his commitment to the military, Lucius has managed to integrate his father’s teachings into his life, most notably through employing servants—Mark, Arius, and more recently, Chloe—rather than taking slaves. Yet, the delicate balance he has struck between duty and morality is tested like never before when Lucius is reassigned to the legion defending Israel, a particularly troubled area of the Empire.

It is in this fractious outpost of Rome that Lucius will have to decide what he truly believes in: the possibility of salvation through a new religion or the false promise of equality and peace within the Pax Romana.

Lucius: A Soldier’s Journey follows Lucius and those closest to him on both a literal and a spiritual journey as he leaves the relative safety of Rome and heads to the tumultuous Israel, where he hears stories of a great teacher who has the ability to perform miracles. Lavery weaves Lucius into the life of Jesus by having him bear witness to major events from the New Testament, including Jesus raising the widow’s son in Nain, the release of Barabbas, and the crucifixion. This is done well and, coupled with the overarching message, should make the story particularly appealing to readers of Christian fiction.

There are a few issues that may render Lucius: A Soldier’s Journey less appealing to fans of general historical fiction. While Lavery is skilled at worldbuilding and unobtrusively working historical facts into fictional events, the conversations between characters are less successfully accomplished. The sometimes stilted and anachronistic dialogue does somewhat detract from the story. Similarly, the intermittent divergences from the language of the period (referring to Israel rather than Judaea, to a general rather than a centurion) can also prove jarring.

Still, Lucius: A Soldier’s Journey is a fast-paced and often compelling novel. Lavery incorporates events from the Bible into the story in a way that provokes thought and reflection, and Lucius himself is an appealing character. It’s an unusual and interesting book that will engage many fans of historical fiction, especially those interested in the early influence of Christianity on the Roman Empire.

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Author Rev. Michael H. Lavery
Star Count 3.5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 380 pages
Publisher Christian Faith Publishing
Publish Date 15-Sep-2022
ISBN 9781685170783 Buy this Book
Issue July 2023
Category Historical Fiction