Independent reviews for EXSILIUM

From Anna Belfrage, multi-published award winning author

We are late in the 4th century, and the formerly so strong Roman empire is cracking at the edges.

In Rome, traditional Roman values are under siege—the Christian faction grows ever stronger, and we all know just how the Christians, throughout history, have excelled at persecuting those who do not share their beliefs. But it isn’t only about faith: it is about a rise in crime and violence, a collapse of hitherto functioning infrastructure, all of this overlaid by complex political machinations. At times, the parallels between the Rome Ms Morton depicts and out own time is somewhat disconcerting. . .

Lucius Apulius is a Roman of the traditional sort. He is also a grieving widower and the father to four daughters, and the uncertainties of the time have him worried. He is not the only one to be concerned, and when he suggests that maybe it is time to move elsewhere to a group of friends, he suddenly finds himself the leader of an expedition that will transport well over 400 people from Rome to Noricum (present day Austria/Slovenia) where his father-in-law can offer them all land. A lot of land.

Told through the POVs of Lucius, of Maelia,a contemporary to Lucius’ dead wife, and of Lucius’ eldest daughter, Galla, Exsiliumpresents us with a vivid depiction of a decaying state—and of the determined men and women who have every intention of salvaging their values, no matter at what cost.

Exsilium is a foundation story for Ms Morton’s fabulous Roma Nova series—eventually, Lucius and the twelve families who accompany him will found a colony called Roma Nova, and in Ms Morton’s alternative world this little colony will flourish through the centuries. But in Exsilium, that future state Roma Nova is as yet only a dream, and our protagonists have multiple challenges to overcome along the way.

Ms Morton’s depiction of everything Roman is vivid and detailed, and I particularly enjoy the insights she offers into the troubled political situation and the intricacies of Roman law. Her characters are well-rounded—I am especially fond of Galla—and Exsiliumoffers recurring moments of tension. There is a lot of travelling in Exsilium—it sort of comes with the territory—but Ms Morton definitely enlivens the long treck north from Rome..

All in all, Exsilium is a gripping and engaging read that effectively reminds us of the fact that nothing is really new under the sun: the concerns and fears we experience today as our “safe” world disintegrates into populism and open conflict are very much those of Lucius Apulius and his companions. Yet another great read from Ms Morton!

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From Christina Courtenay, multi-published historical fiction author

“EXSILIUM is a tale of strong men and women, strong will and strong beliefs, with characters who refuse to be dictated to in any way. When the very foundation on which they’ve built their lives is threatened, they make a monumental decision – to head into exile rather than conform. They set out on an epic journey across the northern part of what is now Italy, and into the mountains, and thanks to the author’s impeccable research, I felt I was with them every step of the way.

Details of Roman life are sprinkled into the narrative, making their world come alive for the reader. Everyday life, politics and social mores are all depicted with superb authenticity, and there is tragedy and sorrow, as well as happiness and hope for the future. EXSILIUM is a fascinating and epic historical novel that will draw the reader in, keeping them engrossed until the very last page. Highly recommended!”

From Ruth Downie, author of the Medicus series

“EXSILIUM leads us through a little-known but fascinating period of history to an alternative so plausible that surely Roma Nova should be on a map somewhere?”

From Amanda Cockrell writing as Damion Hunter, author of The Borderlands and The Centurions series
“EXSILIUM offers serious food for thought with this page-turning adventure of twelve determined families fighting to salvage their ancient culture in the face of a newly Christianized Roman Empire. In this origin story poised on the jumping-off point from recorded history into Morton’s Roma Nova series, Morton upends the historical novel trope of persecuted Christians in a thought-provoking look at what happens when any single religion becomes dominant over its competition.”

From Antoine Vanner, author of the Dawlish Chronicles

“In novel after novel, Ms. Morton had proved herself adept in creating a convincing alternate universe – one in which a remnant of the Roman Empire still survives. Whether set in the twentieth or twenty-first centuries or, in the case of this new novel, in the late fourth century, the settings and plots are convincing since they employ the same social structures and technologies of those times as in the world we live in. The characters have the values of their eras – especially important in the books set in the fourth century, such that they are real people of their time and not just twenty-first century people in re-enactors’ costumes. Were we, or our distant forebears, to be translated into that “Roma Nova” universe, we would function much as we do in our own – which often means “Not Well – but we’ll survive somehow!”

What I find especially interesting in “EXSILIUM” is the picture it presents of a society that is unsure of what it stands for anymore, has no widely supported vision of where it’s going and lacks the will to face, or even recognise, existential challenges. The unitary Roman Empire is by now split into the Western and Eastern Empires. In itself, this is an intelligent response to the challenges of administration over a vast area – but the success of both is dependent on cooperation, the more so since the Barbarian tribes are pressing on the northern and north-eastern borders. Instead of cooperation however there are constant plots. coups and civil wars between aspirants to the purple and, at times. open conflict between the Western and Eastern Empires. The structure of governance persists – the emperor, the imperial civil service, the armies (now dependent on recruits from barbarian tribes) and the senate – but all are hollow. The challenge of respectful coexistence of Christianity, the new state religion, with the remnants of traditional Pagan belief is being mishandled as previously persecuted increasingly become persecutors in their turn. The writing is on the wall – this empire is a doomed enterprise and nobody wants to see it, much less admit it. The Goths will be sacking Rome some two decades in the future and within a century the Western Roman Empire will have disappeared, replaced by kingdoms established by barbarian tribes. The Dark Ages will soon be engulfing most of Europe and though the Eastern Empire will survive as a powerful entity for two centuries more, it too will then start its slow and irreversible decline towards extinction.

Ms. Morton conveys very convincingly how people of education, wealth and dwindling power are forced to recognise that the society that they know and love no longer has a place for them. Decisions, extremely hard decisions, must be taken – whether to remain and somehow survive a future that looks ominous, if not deadly, for them or to cut their losses and strike out for a new beginning whose success cannot be guaranteed. With a reluctance with which we can identify, the individual characters in EXSILIUM come to accept that, in reality, “There is no alternative.”

And accepting that alternative will be the start of the epic of Roma Nova that Ms. Morton chronicles.”

From Elisabeth Storrs, author of A Tale of Ancient Rome series

“EXSILIUM gives a fascinating insight into lesser traversed Roman history. Christian martyrs have become zealots intent on destroying the sacred institutions of the once mighty western empire. Morton skilfully threads this greater history into the personal plight of Roman families who choose exile to preserve their customs and religion. EXSILIUM concludes the gripping genesis story of the Roma Nova thrillers for new readers and established fans alike.”

From Douglas Jackson, author of the Gaius Valerius Verrens series

“Alison Morton proves she is a master of her craft with EXSILIUM, the engrossing story of two Roman families fighting for survival as the society and culture that has nurtured them for generations disintegrates before their eyes.

Her research and knowledge of the period is evident on every page, but delivered with the deftest of touches. As darkness closes in and they decide to flee the all-consuming clutches of a dangerous new fanaticism, the reader is swept along with the characters every step of the way. EXSILIUM creates the perfect foundation for the alternative history of the Roma Nova series.”