Ponderous. This book never ends. The payoff is never there considering the amount of detail and atmosphere inherent in the writing. The author spends hundreds of pages describing the mundane and the dark twisty thoughts of the characters, but describes a whole battle--a battle that is the culmination of the entire book--in one paragraph. A major character dies but it's all off stage so to speak, thereby making his sacrifice, and what happens afterwards, seem negligible. Very frustrating. I really wanted to like this book and move onto the sequels because I love literary depictions of historical figures--in this case Caesar and Alexander the Great--but this book was not worth the time nor did the depictions of the aforementioned historical figures ring true to me. If I'm going to invest in reading 800+ pages of unlikable characters and random details (details apparently there for mood and atmosphere) then I want to have something at least at the end that makes it all worth while. I did not find this to be so.
Thomas Harlan's impressive first novel, The Shadow of Ararat, is an alternate history with babes, battles, and believable magic theory and technology, not to mention political intrigue and major spectacle. The Roman Empire has reached our 7th century without falling or becoming Christian.