by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Nic Calva is a slave in the Roman mines. He lives his life mining away and following the rules, except for the ones that he thinks are stupid. Which means that he refuses to enter a haunted cave to look for a bulla, an amulet, that once belonged to Julius Caesar. But circumstances force him to, and what Nic finds in the cave is far more than a common bulla filled with jewels. This bulla has power–magic that belongs to the gods.
When Nic escapes from the cave, he now possess the power of the Roman gods, through the bulla and the mark now etched on his back. His life in the mines is over. He can be free.
But rather than finding freedom, Nic discovers that he is entangled in a battle for power and for Rome. And he, the boy with powers that no mortal was meant to have, is at the center of it.
Jennifer A. Nielsen is one of my favorite authors. Her stories always shine.
Nic is a great character. Those familiar with Nielsen’s other books may know that her main characters typically have a distinctive voice and wit. Nic is no exception. I read a comment somewhere that someone felt that Nic was too similar to Sage from the Ascendance Trilogy. While I do understand why the reader felt this way, I disagree with them. While Nic and Sage both had their wits always at the ready and are similar in a couple other aspects, they are different when it comes down to the core of the character.
The plot of the book keeps clipping along throughout the novel, revealing more and more of what Nic has gotten himself into and setting up the rest of the Mark of the Thief Trilogy. Plot twists show up along the way. And characters aren’t always what they seem.
If you are uncomfortable reading books that deal with mythology, like the Percy Jackson series, then you’ll want to steer away from this series. The Roman gods are discussed and the magic in the book comes from the Roman gods.
Cautions: magic; some non-graphic violence