My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It took me a long time to read this book, because it is a long book. It is way, way, way, way, WAY too long!
The story is great, but there were many times when I found myself wanting to shout a the words in front of my eyes, for page after page, “Just get on with it!” There was a long period during which reading this book reminded me of my marathon running days. I thoroughly enjoyed the overall experience, but it was sometimes a labour of love: between the 21 and 25 mile points. I suppose that equates to about pages 600-720.
Also, I knew what was going to happen. Most of the storylines are predictable. And the underlying love story is pretty dire.
Having said all of that, this is a great work of historical fiction. My benchmark is always to ask myself if the characters and dialogue and actions bring the history to life for me. In this case, they certainly did that job extraordinarily well. Clearly, a huge amount of research has gone into this book, and the detail comes shining through.
But, as I said at the top of my review, it is far too long. Donna Gillespie would have made a much better job of it if she had condensed the story to, at most, half of its final length. The strength and power of her story-telling would have been much more compelling, and it would have gripped my attention until I had finished.
If you are interested in this period of European history, and want some colourful, graphic descriptions, and you have stamina, pick up this book and read it.
In my opinion Gladiatrix and Roma Victrix are much better reads than The Light Bearer. These two books are just about right in length, and the are fast-paced and dynamic. There are a lot of shocks and surprises in both stories, and Russell Whitfield‘s writing certainly stirs the emotions. I am still grieving for some of his characters now!
I agonised over my rating for The Light Bearer. If ever a book deserved exactly 3.5 stars, in my opinion, this was the one. Do I like it (3 stars), or do I really like it (four stars)? In the end, I decided that the quality of the writing, the detailed descriptions, and the excellent research could persuade me to round my rating up to four stars.