A new novel, The Parthian Interpreter: An Odyssey of the Later Empire (Booklocker.com 2007, 532 pages) by Michael Anderson recently came my way. The author calls it "a novel of historical fantasy."
If you like adventure stories and swashbucklers, and don't mind an occasionally awkward prose, this is the book to read. Set in the reign of Marcus Aurelius and inspired by the Antonine ambassadorial mission to China, it has all the elements of hero and antagonist, encounters with spies, assassins and pirates, incredible feats of bravery and survival, an exotic environment, and what else, love stories. The emperor sends the senator Lucius Curtius Rufus – in desperate need of money – on a trade mission to China and forces him to take as interpreter the Parthian noble Arsaces, whom fate has brought as a slave to the imperial court and who has a clandestine mission from Marcus Aurelius to the Chinese emperor. Accompanied by a cohort of soldiers, they set off to an uncertain fate, and after many adventures and much loss of life indeed arrive in China and to further troubles.
The story is told from the hereafter by its various characters, which gives it a nice structure, and slowly escalates to its climax and the eventual fate of the protagonists. Despite the "fantasy," it has a lot of realistic elements. Since the author, like so many others in today's bottom-line publishing climate, obviously could not find a publisher other than one of the new self-publishing companies, the lack of an editor is apparent.
Nonetheless, it kept my interest going and I thought it a good read.