Title: Danube Divide
Author: Jardonn Smith
Publisher: MLR Press
Characters: Theo, Gregoric, Boris, Drusus
POV: Dual 1st Person (Theo/Gregoric)
The Battle of Hadrianopolis, 378 AD, Roman legions versus Gothic warriors — ancient historian Ammianus called it the worst defeat in Roman history since Cannae. Theologian Rufinus said it was the beginning of evils for the Roman Empire then and thereafter.
Fifteen thousand Romans, two-thirds of the Eastern Empire Legionary forces, lay dead or dying on a Thracian plain, but for four men on opposite sides of the battlefield, no conflicts of cultures, religions or territorial boundaries could keep them apart. Nor could the mighty river that separated their homelands — The Danube. Despite all obstacles, these men will find their way to conquer the Danube Divide.
Danube Divide is an epic 4th century journey—part history lesson that explores the decline of the Roman Empire; part theological study that compares and contrasts Roman Mithraism, Greco-Roman mythology, and Christianity in its infancy; and part erotic romance, told through the voices of two Germanic cousins, Theo and Gregoric.
Not knowing a thing about this era in history, I must say Jardonn Smith did a superb job of convincing me he’d done no small amount of research into the time period and the events that helped to shape Rome’s downfall as a political powerhouse throughout Europe. This is a period in time when Christianity was fighting for its own dominance among the region’s other mythologies, which plays a significant role in the core plot. What I found was this book read as much like a historical text as it did a fictional account of the lives of the men it involved. Keeping that in mind, this particular story might not suit everyone’s tastes in fiction; there’s a lot to absorb in order to keep track of the noteworthy events, which slowed down the pacing of the story for me, at times, but didn’t detract from the fact that there was an impressive amount of information there to hold my interest.
By far, Gregoric’s voice was the more dominant of the two points of view in the book, and as such, his portions of the story were more absorbing than were Theo’s, but I did like that the two men were each very distinct and different personalities. Boris, Gregoric’s mentor cum lover, was a worldly and intelligent man, far ahead of his time, while Drusus, not as strong a presence, was still a dynamic character.
While not a romance in the most technical use of the word, there was a tragically romantic aspect to the story that provided for an emotional tug to the heartstrings. Overall, however, this book should appeal to readers who enjoy history and the legends of the larger-than-life men who helped to shape it.
Reviewed By: Lisa