This book is well out of the norm for my reading, but the topic caught my attention, as well as the dearth of information with which the author had to work. It is hard to write a good novel about a historical character when almost nothing is known about that character. It doesn’t really matter what you write, somebody is not going to like it.
The first thing to note about this book is the subtitle: A Novel of the Roman Empire. Those who are expected a Biblical novel, one primarily oriented toward Biblical characters, themes, and goals will be sorely disappointed. The setting is primarily Rome and Roman social life in the provinces; Palestine only plays a small role when Pilate is sent there. In a Christian novel, Biblically based, one might expect a great deal said about Jesus and other Biblical characters. That is not the case here.
Second, one should be aware this is written about a woman by a woman, and it focuses on the woman’s perspective. In historical novels of this period that is not all that usual, because it is hard to keep things interesting when men are running the show and all the chief characters are women. I got the annoying feeling that the lead characters spend their time largely being pushed around by other people, with only brief moments when they can be themselves. Of course, that feeling is probably an accurate reflection of what it was like to be a woman at that time.
For historical connections, the author uses a couple of less probable reconstructions about Jesus, but those elements are not impossible, merely not proven, so that can be forgiven. It does make for some added interest in the story.
I have to rate this book at 3, because I found it interesting but not exceptionally so. I must note, however, that this is not due to any weakness of the book, but rather to my limited interest in the subject matter. Within its necessary constraints it is a good book.